Simple Measurements for Health in Retirement

Some simple measurements for health in retirement include BMI, Waist size, Body Shape, Waist to Hip Ratio and Waist to Height Ratio.  The beauty of these measurements is that you can do them all yourself – all you need is a scale, a tape measure and a mirror!

BMI: This is your Body Mass Index – a measure of whether your weight is too little, too much or just right for someone of your height.

The formula for calculating it is: (your weight in pounds times 703) divided by (your height in inches, squared).  If you prefer to have it calculated for you, you can go to:

This site will also provide guidance about what might be your “ideal” weight.

Generally, a BMI:

  • under 18.5 is considered “underweight;”
  • 18.5 – 24.9 is “normal” or “healthy;”
  • 25 – 25.9 is “overweight:”
  • over 30 is “obese.”

BMI is generally considered a helpful tool with respect to whether someone is over or under a healthy weight.  Since about two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, a BMI over 25 can wave a useful flag indicating that attention and action are needed.  Being significantly overweight leads to a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some cancers, osteoarthritis and emotional problems.

Useful as BMI is, there appear to be some even simpler and more useful measures.  These look not so much at how much weight do you have but WHERE you have it.  Having too much fat around your middle is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol which can lead to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.  So, get naked and look at yourself in the mirror…

Apple or Pear?

Which do you most resemble?  Most of us store fat in one of two ways: around our hips and thighs or around our middle.  Storage around the middle = apple shape; hips and thighs storage = pear shape.  It is it is better to be a pear.  Storing fat around our middle increase the risk for diabetes and heart attacks.

Waist Size

Measure your waist with a tape measure (don’t pull it too tight – you want the truth don’t you?).  A waist greater than 32 inches for women and 37 inches for men begins to reflect an increase in risk for cardiovascular disease.  Risk increases substantially for women with waists over 35 inches and men with waists over 40 inches.

Waist to Hip Ratio

Measure your waist at it narrowest point.  Measure your hips at their widest point.  Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.  For example: if your waist measurement is 38 inches and your hips are 44 inches, your waist to hip ratio is .86.  If you are a man, you want your ratio to be less than 1.0; if you are a woman, you want your ratio to be less than .8.  If your ratio exceeds these numbers, your are an APPLE!

Waist to Height

This is very simple: The size of your waist should be less than half your height.

Of course there are many exceptions to much of the above: young people, old people, sumo wrestlers, very short people, very tall people, professional athletes.  But the word to the wise is: “attentive.”  Be attentive to your weight and shape.  It could make the difference in your health in retirement (and earlier).

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2009 R.K. Price


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