Science Says Men with This Body Type Have Healthier Hearts

Gents: It's time to take out the measuring tape.

It's widely known that a woman's waist-to-hip ratio is an important indicator of her overall health. Now, a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports has shed light on the importance of a man's waist-to-height ratio, also known as his "waist-to-stature" ratio (WSR), to his overall health and longevity.

Researchers at the São Paulo State University (UNESP), in Brazil, and the UK's Oxford Brookes University analyzed previous studies and determined that men who had higher waist-to-height ratios were more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, even if they were not overweight.

"We found that non-overweight, physically active, healthy individuals without a history of metabolic or cardiovascular disease but with WSRs close to the risk factor limit were more likely to develop heart disorders than individuals with less accumulated fat in the waist area,", said Vitor Engrácia Valenti, a professor at UNESP and lead author of the study.

Measuring your waist-to-stature is done by dividing your waist circumference by your height. So, a man that is 6 feet tall (72 inches) and has a 30-inch waistline would have a waist-to-height ratio of 0.41, which is roughly the same as the average college swimmer. If you're under 40, your waist-to-height ratio should not be higher than 0.5. If you're over 50, a WSR that puts you at critical risk is considered to start at 0.6.

Because recent studies have found that how fat is distributed on your body is a better indicator of health than how much body fat you carry overall, WHR and WSR are increasingly considered more accurate predictors of cardiovascular risk than the body mass index (BMI).

But to prove this theory, Valenti and his team recruited 52 men between the ages of 18 and 30—all of whom were healthy and physically active—and divided them into three groups according to their WSR. On the first day of the study, they asked them to sit for 15 minutes, work out as hard as possible on the treadmill, then rest for another hour. The purpose of this was to determine that they were all capable of performing intense aerobic exercises, regardless of their WSR.

"This test proved they were all physically active. They weren't athletes, but they were in the habit of playing soccer on weekends, for example," Valenti said.

On the second day, they were all asked to run for 25 minutes at 60 percent of their maximum effort, after which the researchers measured their heart rates. As expected, the men whose WSRs were higher than 0.5 took a longer time to recover following the exercise, which does not bode well for their hearts.

"Autonomic heart rate recovery time is a good indicator of the risk of cardiovascular complications immediately after aerobic exercise and of developing heart disease," Valenti said. "If the heart rate takes a long time to return to normal, this indicates that the individual runs a significant risk of developing a heart disorder…We found that volunteers in the group with WSRs close to the risk limit were also more likely to develop cardiovascular disorders."

Given its effect on your heart, it is perhaps no surprise that a 2014 study found that people with very high WSRs, such as 0.8 (FYI: the ideal WHR for a woman is 0.7, which means there's a difference of seven inches between the circumference of the hips and the waist), lived 17 years less than those with healthy WSRs. In general, studies on WSR seem to be focused on men for now, and, within the medical community, studies on waistlines and overall health in women center more around their WHRs. But it might be worth calculating your waist-to-height ratio regardless of what gender you are, and to remember the golden rule: your waist circumference should never be more than half of your height!

And for more on how to keep your heart healthy long into your golden years, find out how far you need to walk every day to extend your life.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more