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What is a Waist to Hip Ratio?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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The waist to hip ratio is an expression of the relationship between the circumference of someone's waist and the circumference of the hips. It is produced by dividing the measurement of the waist by the measurement of the hips. Numerous studies on this ratio have been conducted to determine whether or not it can be used as an accurate measurement of someone's general health, and also to research the influence of it on standard of attractiveness.

What has been discovered about the waist to hip ratio is that women with a ratio of around 0.7 and men with a ratio of around 0.9 tend to be more fertile, and also generally healthier. Researchers have also found that these ratios tend to crop up again and again in perceptions of beauty. Women at a wide range of weights and sizes are consistently viewed as attractive when they have a waist to hip ratio of 0.7, for example, regardless of their cultural origins.

In addition to being a potential measure of attractiveness, the ratio may also have some bearing on health. Research has shown that people who carry more weight up top tend to be prone to health risks, especially cardiovascular disease. People with this type of figure are sometimes said to be "apples," in contrast to "pears," figures with more weight on the hips. Pear shapes tend to be healthier in general than apples, regardless of their weight.

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Some people feel that the waist to hip ratio should be used in an assessment of general health, and that it may be a better predictor than the body mass index, as the ratio looks at how weight is distributed on the body. Certainly people with apple figures have more cause for concern, and their doctors may recommend various measures to prevent the onset of potentially dangerous conditions later in life.

In addition to being a potential measure of health and a sign of beauty, the ration between the waist and hips may also play a role in intelligence. Infants born to women with a low waist to hip ratio, indicating a pear shape, seem to develop into more intelligent children. Although measurements of intelligence are often flawed and difficult to compare, some medical professionals have suggested that this evidence indicates that the fetal brain develops more fully in women who carry their weight on their hips, perhaps because the stored fat has useful compounds that stimulate brain development.

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Perdido
Post 6

My mother used to be apple-shaped, but the high blood pressure that she developed from the excess weight spurred her on to a healthier existence. Though she cannot change the way that her body chooses to store fat, she did change the amount of fat available to it.

She had an extreme muffin top. After a year of consistent exercise and healthy food choices, she got rid of it. She still doesn't have the ideal waist-to-hip ratio, even though she is at her ideal weight.

Her doctor said that even though someone with her ratio is at risk of heart disease, keeping a healthy weight and keeping her blood pressure down could counteract the risk. She is definitely motivated to continue her current lifestyle, even if she will never be a pear.

shell4life
Post 5

@kylee07drg – Hopefully, you are an exception. I have the same straight figure as you, but I have a kidney disease that I believe contributes to my waist-to-hip ratio.

My kidneys are covered in cysts, and they are enlarged. They aren't fully protected by my rib cage, so they push out on the surrounding area. I think that this is the reason for my straight waist that is almost even with my hip area.

So, I am one of the people to whom the ratio and health relation applies. There is currently no cure for this disease, so all I can do is take care of myself as well as possible.

kylee07drg
Post 4

@KaBoom – I totally agree with you. I have been stuck with what is considered an undesirable frame, and no matter how much muscle I build or weight I lose, I can't change it.

I am neither an apple nor a pear. I have a very straight waist, and my hips don't poke out much at all. I have nothing even resembling an hourglass figure.

I eat a healthy diet and exercise, so I don't think I am one of the statistics who are unhealthy because of their waist-to-hip ratio. I suppose only time will tell, but I can only do so much.

KaBoom
Post 3

Wow, the hip to waist ratio also plays a role in intelligence?! This just seems unfair for people who have an unfavorable hip to waist ratio. Not only are they considered less attractive, there kids might be less intelligent?

In my opinion, there's only so much you can do about your proportions. Most people are shaped a certain way, and even if they gain or lose weight, their proportions remain somewhat the same! It seems like hip to waist ratio might be something that you're either born with or you're not.

JessicaLynn
Post 2

@sunnySkys - I actually read an article awhile ago about symmetrical facial features being more attractive. Some people actually think that having a symmetrical face shows that you are healthier. So this might be an indicator of health just like an attractive waist to hip ratio!

Anyway, even if a waist to hip ratio measurement of .7 is the healthiest, I read somewhere that the most attractive waist to hip ratio can vary by culture. European cultures tend to find .7 the most attractive, but people in China find a ratio of .8 to .9 to be the most attractive. So I think this is a cultural phenomenon just as much as it's an evolutionary one!

sunnySkys
Post 1

It's very interesting that the healthiest hip to waist ratio is also considered the most attractive. This is evolution and natural selection at work for sure! This ensures that the people that are the most healthy and likely to produce healthy offspring are the most likely to breed.

This makes me wonder if other conventionally attractive features are also indicators of good health. I know a symmetrical face is also considered to be more attractive than having asymmetrical features. However, I'm not sure if symmetrical features indicate good health or just look good!

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