A project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
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Fact Sheet Number 128
BODY COMPOSITION TESTS
The tests and measurements described in
measurements of fat and lean body mass.
Repeated measurements can be helpful
in monitoring body shape changes
associated with lipodystrophy (see fact
sheet 553) or with wasting syndrome (see
fact sheet 519).
Some of these measurements are used to
determine if someone is overweight.
Excess weight is associated with a higher
risk of heart disease. Low weight,
including an unintended weight loss of 5%
or more, may also be a sign of health
problems (see fact sheet 519).
There are pluses and minuses for each
method. Some have to do with cost. Also,
a trained technician can often make a big
difference in measurements. Try to use
the same technique and technician if you
are tracking changes over time.
This word just means measuring the
is the simplest
involves using a tape
measure to take key readings, such as
biceps, thigh, waist, and hips. A trained
technician is very important for this
• Skinfold measurements
Calipers (a metal tool) are used to “pinch”
in several places. The
measurement should be trained so that
the measurements are standardized.
• Waist to hip ratio
Divide your hip measurement (at the
widest point) by your waist measurement
(at the narrowest point). In general, a
healthy waist to hip ratio is below 0.9 for
men and below 0.8 for women. These
may not hold true for people with HIV who
have fat accumulation around the waist.
In general, a waist size over 40” for men
or over 35” for women is associated with