So, you think you’re in the clear, you are just a couple of pounds within reach of your optimum weight and your BMI (Body Mass Index) is in the healthy range – happy days! But now it seems that we need to think again, as these are no longer thought to be the most powerful and accurate indicators of your risk of developing serious diseases such as CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Instead, it seems that the answer lies with your waist size!
The measurement of your waist and waist-to-hip raitio have been shown to be an effective indicator to risk from disease. For every extra 2 inches (5cm) you carry around your waist, the chance of early death rises by up to 17 per cent! This fact was confirmed in a study of more than 350,000 men and women with an average age of 51 (General and abdominal adiposity and risk of death in Europe, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 13 November 2008). Their health was tracked for 10 years and waist measurement proved to be a much more accurate measure of future health risk than BMI alone.
HOW TIGHT IS YOUR BELT?
So, it seems that just learning to live with your muffin top isn’t really the best option after all! Now for the science bit… Dr David Haslam (Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum) says “Abdominal fat is like a giant gland secreting hormones and other substances that affect the liver, bowel, arteries and heart. We all need to reduce our waistlines as soon as possible”. Scary stuff!
Overweight men typically deposit fat around their waist, making them apple-shaped. However, it is largely down to genetics that determine a woman’s shape of either apple or pear shaped, and abdominal fat becaomes more common with hormonal changes around menopause. You should be more concerned if you are apple shaped because this indicates that the majority of fat is stored closer to the heart. I never thought I would be pleased to say that I come under the ‘pear-shaped’ catagory!
Measureing your waist is a good place to start and is very easy for you to do yourself in your own home – guessing really isn’t good enough on this one so ensure you get an accurate measurement (see below for instruction of how to obtain accurate measurement). According to researchers at Leicester University, most of us Britts seem to be in denial about the true size of our waistline and underestimate our waist size. When more than 500 people were asked to guess their waist measurement, on average women cut it short by 2 inches (5cm) and men by 3 inches (8cm). This is worrying becuase to underestimate your size by this amount could mean that clear warning signs of disease are not identified.
HOW TO MEASURE YOUR WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE:
Most importantly, don’t put the tape measure under your beer belly! Measure at the mid-point between the lowest rib and the top of your hip bone. Ensure the tape is snug and parallel to the floor, but doesn’t compress or dig in to the skin. The measurement should be taken after you have exhaled.
HOW TO WORK OUT YOUR WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO:
Once you have your accurate waist measurement, measure the widest part of your hips (do this measurement 3 times and take the largest reading as the one you will use), then divide the waist by the hip measurement, for example: wasit = 33 inches (85cm) divided by hips 39 inches (100cm) = 0.85 inches.
If the ratio is more than 0.87 for a woman, or more than 0.95 for a man, you should consider ways to reduce your waist size. It could be the perfect time and reason to embark on that healthy lifestyle you have been thinking of starting :0)