Obesity and fat patterns are important predictors of coronary heart disease risk. The relations of abdominal height (sagittal diameter) and various obesity measures to coronary heart disease risk factors were examined in a community-based sample of 409 Blacks and 1,011 Whites aged 20-38 years in Bogalusa, Louisiana (1995-1996). Obesity measures used included weight, waist circumference, waist:hip ratio, waist:height ratio, abdominal height, triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses, body mass index, and conicity index. Abdominal height was highly correlated with other obesity measures, especially waist circumference (0.937-0.944, p < 0.001), and was least correlated with height. In multivariate analysis, abdominal height was an independent predictor of levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, very low density lipoprotein cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, glucose, and insulin and of systolic and diastolic blood pressures (p < 0.05 to p < 0.001), with total R2 values ranging from 0.13 to 0.52. Abdominal height contributed more to the prediction of blood pressure than did other measures of central obesity. In canonical analysis, abdominal height was correlated more strongly with the coronary disease risk factor variables as a group than were other obesity measures. These results suggest that abdominal height adds another dimension to measures of obesity in that it may help to assess a component of visceral fat that other measures miss.