Previous research has shown that your waist circumference gives a better indication of cardiometabolic risk than your BMI, as central (abdominal) obesity is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease. But the latest study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, suggests an even better predictor of heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes could be the ratio between your waistline and your height.
Researchers at Oxford Brookes University reviewed the findings of 31 previous studies involving approximately 30,000 people in order to find out the best ways to assess a person's cardiovascular risk. Overall, they found that WHtR was much better than BMI at predicting adverse cardiometabolic outcomes. WHtR improved discrimination by between four and five per cent, compared with BMI, while waist circumference improved discrimination by just three per cent.
Dr Margaret Ashwell, from Oxford Brookes University, says that people can reduce their risk of adverse risk factors such as high blood pressure by keeping their waist circumference to less than half of their height. Researchers have found that by adhering to this advice, it may be possible to significantly improve life expectancy. For instance, scientists at Cass Business School in London estimate that a 30-year-old non-smoking male could reduce his life expectancy by up to 14 per cent if his WHtR is 0.7, and by as much as a third if it is 0.8.
"Keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world," Dr Ashwell concluded.