Women with typical female fat distribution may hate the way it looks on their thighs, but it doesnít seem to be a very dangerous kind of fat. However, men with abdominal fat carry a lethal package in their bellies. At what point does belly fat become dangerous? This is a home test you can do for assessment of your risk. Itís called "the waist to hip ratio". Despite the lack of sophistication, itís quite useful.

With a tape measure, measure your waist above the belly button (on your skin without clothing) at its largest diameter. No fair cheating by sucking in! You may have to ask your spouse, "Where did my waist used to be?" Measure your hips at their widest point. Then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.

Ideally, your hips should be wider than your waist so that the ratio is not more than 1.0. Since women naturally have broader hips than men do, we expect their ratio to be a little lower. Men should be 0.9 or less. When their ratio exceeds 1.0 they are starting the potbelly associated with heart attacks. A man with a 34" waist divided by 38" hips would have a ratio of 0.9. It would be quite typical for him to distribute early fat gain on both waist and hips.For example, he might add two inches to each measurement for a 36" waist divided by 40" hips. Divide these two and itís still a 0.9. He can breathe a sign of relief, "Iím not pot bellied; Iím fat all over." If, however, he adds four inches of fat to his waist during the next few years, he gets a 40 divided by 40 which equals 1.0.

For women, a ratio of 0.8 or less is desirable. As with men, both measurements can increase equally, maintaining the same ratio. Itís when the waist only increases that you approach the male figures (pun intended) of 0.9.

Women, who have repeatedly lost weight rapidly, only to gain it all back, usually regain in the belly until they have a ratio of 1.0 or more. Their bodies look more male and take on male cardiovascular risk.

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