Calculating Your Waist to Hip Ratio

Woman measuring hips with tape measure
Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a measurement that compares the size of your waist in inches to the size of your hips in inches. The risk for developing heart disease can be estimated using your WHR.

The WHR is just one of several ways your doctor might estimate your risk for cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Calculating your WHR is easy to do, takes very little time, and doesn't cost anything. In addition, if you change WHR to improve your health, you can easily track your progress as you slim down.

Calculating Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Your doctor or nurse might calculate WHR at your office appointment, but you can easily measure it at home. You'll need a flexible tape measure and a calculator.

  1. Measure your waist circumference. Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your stomach, across your belly button. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin. Once the tape measure is positioned correctly, breathe in gently, and then take the measurement on the exhale.
  2. Take a hip measurement. Stand with your feet directly beneath your hips and wrap the tape around the widest part of your hips and buttocks. Note the measurement in inches.
  3. Calculate your WHR. Divide your waist size by your hip size to get your WHR.

To measure your WHR correctly, you should remove any bulky clothing that can add padding around your abdomen.

According to the World Health Organization, a WHR greater than 1.0 is indicative of a higher than normal risk of developing heart disease. A healthy WHR for women is under 0.85 and a healthy WHR for men is 0.90 or less.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Example

To get a better idea of how your WHR works, use this example of a woman named Sarah. If her waist measurement is 30 inches and her hip measurement is 38 inches, then her WHR is:

30 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = 0.78 inches

Sarah has a WHR that falls in the normal range.

How Weight Gain Changes Your WHR

If Sarah gains abdominal fat, her WHR will change. For example, if her waist measurement increases to 39 inches and her hip measurement increases to 38 inches, then her new WHR would be:

39 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = 1.02 inches

Sarah's weight gain has now put her in a higher risk category for conditions like heart disease.

How Weight Loss Changes Your WHR

But she can change her risk profile by losing weight. If she slims down— waist measurement is 32 inches and her hip measurement is 38 inches— watch how her WHR numbers change as well.

32 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = 0.84 inches

Even though Sarah's waist circumference is larger than when she started, she still brought her WHR closer to a healthy range with weight loss.

A Word From Verywell

Your waist size, your hip circumference, and WHR do not cause disease and they don't indicate that you necessarily will get heart disease or any other illness.

The measurements are simply guidelines that medical professionals use to predict your possible risk of disease. You can use the numbers at home to motivate and inspire weight loss for healthy living.

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  1. Cao Q, Yu S, Xiong W, et al. Waist-hip ratio as a predictor of myocardial infarction risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(30):e11639. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000011639