Weight, genetics, and ratios. Or: Motivate me to drop some pounds
April 26, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

According to my waist-hip ratio, I am unattractive and will die of heart disease. How much will weight loss help?

I am mostly concerned about losing weight for health-related reasons. I have always stored weight around my waist and on my low back right above my butt. This is how all of the women in my family are. Although I am well within the healthy range for my height BMI-wise, I know that my waist hip ratio (with waist 32 and hips 38) prompts the University of Maryland's online calculator to say: "Your Waist to Hip Ratio is 0.84 and appears to indicate an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. You may wish to talk to a doctor about losing weight. Or you can get started on your own by eating right and getting regular exercise."

I do eat right and I do get regular exercise. So here's my question: Given that this is the way my body stores weight, would losing additional weight do me good? Or am I simply, through where my body naturally stores weight, predisposed to heart disease and diabetes?

Thoughts, Mefistanis?

(The ideal beauty 0.7 ratio thing also disheartens me, but I know I am fine as I am so whatever.)
posted by BusyBusyBusy to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Although I am well within the healthy range for my height BMI-wise

While that's all well and good, go get an accurate body fat measurement to give yourself a different metric to consider.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:00 PM on April 26, 2010

Best answer: All the women in my family are waistless wonders (tubes when we're thin, apples when we're plump). We are all short-waisted, with little distance between hip and the bottom of the rib cage, making a naturally nipped in waist difficult to achieve. As a small, slim teenager with total bodyfat around 22 or 23%, I had a 28" waist and 34" hips, and a WHR of .82. Young, slim and healthy, I could not meet the WHR health ideal, let alone the beauty ideal. But I'm not dead yet.

IANAD, but the way I read WHR is the same way I read BMI: for many people, those numbers are fairly well correlated with either a high body fat percentage or a lot of visceral fat, but some people are just outliers because of their skeletal structure or muscularity. It's the visceral, metabolically active fat that is the health risk. If your BMI is within the healthy range, and you're carrying back fat and other subcutaneous fat but relatively little visceral fat, you're probably as healthy as any pear.

Have you had your bodyfat tested by an expert? That should give you some idea of how much fat is actually on your frame, and the expert could probably give you an estimate of how much is subcutaneous (innocuous) and how much is visceral and risky.
posted by rosebuddy at 10:01 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bodyweight, your BMI, and your waist-to-hip ratio are only useful numbers inasmuch as they are predictors of bodyfat percentage, and in particular as an indicator of abdominal obesity.

Whatever your body's pattern for fat-storing is, it's possible to have a healthy or an unhealthy body composition.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:02 PM on April 26, 2010

I have an hourglass figure and my waist-to-hip ratio is the picture of health. It was the picture of health when I was 25lbs heavier and could barely tackle a flight of stairs. My BMI is always too high, even when I am within a healthy weight according to my doctor, get exercise and eat right.

Every day new studies are done to tell us how we're killing ourselves by being this shape or that one. Tomorrow there will be another one to disprove the ones from today. Just focus on eating healthy and getting in your exercise, which has always been a good way to stay healthy, and less about what "science" is saying today. My two cents. IANAD.
posted by caveat at 9:00 AM on April 27, 2010

Yeah, I'm fat, but with a short rib cage and long waist. Despite having belly fat, I still have a "healthy" waist-hip ratio. Since you're eating right, getting regular exercise (presumably you feel acceptably fit, i.e. you don't feel like your life is impaired by needing to be in better shape), and overall a healthy weight, etc.... Most of us have some genetic predisposition to Something Bad, you're lucky enough to know yours so you can use it as motivation to stay a healthy weight, etc.
posted by anaelith at 9:16 AM on April 27, 2010

I am not as lean as I would like to be but I have always had a tummy, even when I was thinner. I think that it's more correlation than causation - people who have a waist-hip ratio of x are more likely to have y. If you're eating well and exercising, the bad news is that it's more likely that your waist-hip ratio (and therefore, likelihood of bad things happening) is influenced by genetics rather than lifestyle.

That said, you can empower yourself with this information. My mother died of a heart attack when she was 57, increasing the likelihood that I will have a heart attack at a young age. I mentioned this to my doctor at a physical so he looked and found that my cholesterol was a little high. I started eating oatmeal and made a more concerted effort to exercise regularly and it dropped.

My point is, you can learn your cholesterol, blood pressure and [insert comparable diabetes predicting number]. Knowing that and working on it is more helpful than random numbers that may or may not mean something.
posted by kat518 at 9:26 AM on April 27, 2010

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