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Waist to Hip Ratio Important for Older Adults

Recent findings show that the ratio of waist size to hip size may be a much better indicator of obesity and health among older adults than Body Mass Index (BMI.)

UCLA researchers published their findings online in the July 2009 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Epidemiology.

BMI is a measure of an individual's weight in relation to their height. The formula used to calculate BMI is Weight (lb) / (Height (in) x Height (in)) x 703.

The changes in body size and composition that occur as we age seem to make this type of measurement less accurate for determining how much body fat older individuals are carrying around.

Waist to hip circumference ratio, on the other hand, compares the circumference of your waist to that of your hips. Typically this ratio is less than one because your hips should be larger than your waist but as that ratio gets closer to one or more than one it is a good indication of obesity.

For the study, researchers used data from 1,189 men and women who took part in the MacArthur Successful Aging Study, a longitudinal study of high-functioning men and women between 70 and 79 years of age.

The researchers found no link between overall mortality risk and BMI or waist circumference but they did observe a significant association with regard to waist to hip circumference ratio.

Among the women in the study, every 0.1 increase in the waist to hip ratio was associated with a 28% increased risk of mortality.

The researchers observed a 75% increase in death risk among men with waist sizes that exceeded their hip size.

Heights and weights were self reported so further studies are necessary to verify these results, but nonetheless it seems that older adults should keep a close eye on their waist to hip ratio as it appears to be a better indicator of health than BMI.

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