Many people decide to go organic after their doctor tells them they need to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle. Based on the most current research, it’s a smart move.

Over the last few years, researchers have discovered that where you carry excess fat has significant health implications. Instead of relying strictly on weight and body mass index (BMI) to determine obesity, your doctor may soon take an up-close-and-personal look at your gut. A major international study now reveals that waist-to-hip ratio may be a more critical measurement.

“Waist-to-hip ratio was the most significant indicator of possible cardiovascular disease,” says Barbara Crishi, a certified diabetes educator at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine, Texas.

You can check your ratio by first measuring your waist (just under the ribcage). Next, measure your hips at their widest point. Now, divide waist measurement by hip measurement (both in inches). A ratio greater than .8 for women and 1.0 for men puts you at risk.

According to Crishi, it comes down to whether you’re apple- or pear-shaped: “The apple shape is more indicative of having cardiovascular disease than the pear shape is,” she says, as abdominal fat is more strongly associated with health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers don’t yet know why abdominal fat is linked to greater risk, so they’re encouraging more research to confirm their hypotheses.

Check out Organic Authority’s archive of Health, Organic Food and Organic Living articles for tips on staying fit.