Beyond BMI: A Better Way to Assess Your Health Risk

in Weight Loss

By Dave Tai (guest contributor)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is an estimate of body fat based on one’s height and weight. BMI is one of the most common methods used in Singapore for identifying health risks. It can be calculated using a simple formula of weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared. This formula gives you a unit of measure of kg/m2. As of 2005, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) revised the BMI cut-off based on studies on Asian populations. Below are the revised BMI recommendations.

BMI provides an objective ratio between your body weight and height. It can be a good estimate for the general population, but individuals who are muscular or short may find themselves inaccurately labeled as overweight (moderate risk) or obese (high risk). Also, individuals with less lean tissue but excess body fat (more common among older adults) may find themselves misplaced at the low risk category. Below we will share with you how to more accurately assess your overall health with just a measuring tape.

Girth Measurement

Girth measurement is the use of a measuring tape to measure the circumference of various sites of the body. Bodybuilders may use it to work towards a desired girth measurement while people on a weight loss plan may use it to track their progress. For the purpose of general health assessment we need girth measurements from only two sites of your body. Take a reading of both sites twice to ensure accuracy. If the recorded values differ more than five millimeters, take a third reading.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

34/365 - B is for Battling the Bulge
(photo: Helga Weber)

Having attained both your waist and hip circumference you can use it to calculate your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR). The purpose of this test is to identify the main location of your fat deposit which can be in your abdominal region or your hips and thighs. Individuals who carry excess fat in their abdominals are known as android (apple shaped) while individuals who carry excess fat in their hips and thighs are known as gynoid (pear shaped). Studies have reported that android individuals with a high WHR are at a higher health risk as compared to gynoid individuals. To calculate simply divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement, the higher your ratio the closer you are to being an android and hence at greater risk. Below is a reference table to compare your results.

Waist Circumference

As mentioned above, accumulation of abdominal fat leading to an android figure can be detrimental to one’s health. It is strongly correlated to type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. In a study on men, for every increase of two and a half centimeters in waist circumference, there is an estimated of 10% increase in blood pressure, 8% of blood cholesterol and a decrease of High-Density Lipoprotein (also known as good cholesterol) by 15%. Below is a reference table for risk categorization based on your waist circumference.

WHR and waist circumference are simple time efficient methods that gives you a more accurate picture of your health risk. So if you have a measuring tape lying somewhere, it is time to spare a few minutes to give yourself a quick assessment.


By guest contributor and fitness instructor Dave Tai.

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