Increasingly, doctors are using waist size and body shape, along with body weight, to predict your risk for chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. There are two main body shape types that are related to your health – apple and pear.

Your body shape, which can be determined by using the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), is important because it indicates the fat distribution in your body. People who have apple-shaped bodies carry more weight around their abdomen. Those who have a pear-shaped body have a narrower waist and carry more weight around their hips and thighs.

“Recent research indicates that the body shape type of both men and women is also an indicator of health risks. The risk for a person with an apple-shaped body habitus appears to be higher compared to another person who is pear-shaped,” says Dr Tan Hong Chang, Senior Consultant from the Department of Endocrinology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

A Mayo Clinic study found that people with a “normal healthy” BMI and a thicker middle (apple-shape) were more than twice as likely to die of any cause. They were 2.75 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, than normal-weight people with a pear-shaped body.

What is an ideal waist size, health-wise?

Your health risk is directly correlated to your waist size.

Waist size for women:

  • Ideal: < 80cm (32”)
  • High risk: 80-88cm (32”-35”)
  • Very high risk: > 88cm (35”)

Waist size for men:

  • Ideal: < 94cm (37”)
  • High risk: 94-102cm (37”-40”)
  • Very high risk: > 102cm (40”)

Read the next page to learn how the shape of your body can impact your health risk.

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