NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2005

Hip-to-waist ratio might be a better predictor of heart attack risk than body-mass index (BMI), which is the current standard, according to a study published Friday in the journal Lancet.

For the study, researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, analyzed data from 27,098 people, including 12,461 who had experienced a heart attack, in Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America.

According to researchers:

  • The risk of heart attack increased as the ratio of waist size increased in proportion to hip circumference.
  • In addition, the 20 percent of those studied who had the highest hip-to-waist ratio had 2.5 times the heart attack risk as the 20 percent with the lowest ratio.
  • People in China had the lowest ratios, with an average of 88 percent, followed 89 percent in Southeast Asia, 90 percent in North America, 92 percent in Africa, 93 percent in the Middle East and 94 percent in South America.

According to Arya Sharma, a co-author of the study, an athlete and an overweight, sedentary person could have similar BMIs because the index does not measure where fat is located on the body or how muscular a person is.

Based on the study's findings, researchers recommended trimming the abdomen and possibly increasing hip size by redistributing fat or increasing muscle mass, say the researchers.

Source: Robert Barr, "Hip-to-waist ratio may signal healthy heart," Associated Press/Seattle Times, November 4, 2005; based upon: Salim Yusuf et al., "Obesity and the risk of myocardial infarction in 27,000 participants from 52 countries: a case-control study," Lancet, Vol. 366, Number 9497, November 5, 2005.

For study summary:

For text:


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