For years doctors have been predicting heart attack risk by measuring a person’s BMI. In fact, a much better predictor of heart attack risk is whether you are apple shaped or not. You may have large thighs, fat hips and a huge bum and have a lower heart attack risk than someone with skinny legs and a big belly.

It seems that gauging your heart attack risk depends on where your fat is rather than how much fat you have. Calculating your BMI (body mass index) still is a predictor of heart attack, it is just not as good a predictor as looking at whether the fat in your body gives you a big tummy or large hips.

If the fat is deposited in your tummy area (your tummy looks fat) you are more likely to have a heart attack than if your fat lies in your thighs, bottom and/or hips.

This is according to a study carried out by researchers from MacMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. You can read about this study in the journal The Lancet.

The researchers pointed out that all a BMI calculates is your weight in relation to your height. Muscular, athletic people have a high BMI (muscle weighs more than fat), but they are extremely healthy. Muscular athletes do not have beer-bellies, though. In fact, it is possible for an obese person to have the same BMI as a muscular athlete.

Stand a muscular athlete, say a 100 metre sprinter, next to an obese person and see who has a bigger belly. But they could both have the same BMI.

The researchers found that your waist-to-hip ratio is a good calculator of your heart attack risk. They studied 27,000 people, half of whom had heart failure.

What is your waist-to-hip ratio?

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. E.g. If your hips measurement is 40 inches and your waist is 34 inches your hip-to-waist ratio is 0.85. If you are a man, that’s great, if you are a woman, that’s OK (but you are right on the limit of healthy).

– A man’s ratio should not be over 0.90
– A woman’s ratio should not be over 0.85

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today