It probably comes as no surprise, to any of you who are even a bit health conscious, that Americans are not the picture of health. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that over 50% of Americans are over-weight and it is predicted by year 2030 that close to 50% of Americans will be obese.
I have written in previous articles that excess weight is your enemy and increases the risks of developing hypertension and most chronic degenerative diseases. I’ve also pointed out that “all weight is not the same”! (links to past articles below)
For example, if you are exceptionally muscular, though your weight may classify you as being over-weight for your height, you do not have the same degree of risk of someone who weighs what you weigh but has a body fat percentage that is 10-20 points higher than yours.
So weight alone can be a misleading indicator of risk! I have also written that the “location” of your weight plays a BIG role in just how dangerous your extra weight is to you.
Based upon current research and understanding, excess weight around your waist and belly area is much more dangerous to your health than excess weight around your hips, thighs, arms and back.
The fat cells (adipocytes) in this area seem to generate more hormones and other chemicals that can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and even cancer.
Therefore measurement of your body weight or your Body Mass Index (a ratio of your weight to height) does not tell the whole story because it doesn’t take into consideration where your excess weight is located.
It may turn out that the “waist-to-hip” ratio is a better index of increased health risk because it is comparing the excess weight you carry in the “dangerous waist/belly” area to the weight you carry below this area.
It’s quite simple to calculate. Just divide your waist measurement (in either inches or centimeters) by your hip measurement.
Place the tape measure so that is crosses your belly button when taking your waist measurement and measure your hips around the widest area.
For men a waist to hip ration of .95 or above is undesirable. For women, a ratio of .80 or above is undesirable.
Also for men, it is thought that a waist measurement of 40 inches or above is too high and that for women a measurement of 35 or above is too high.
A recent study done at the University of Minnesota found that belly fat (abdominal obesity) was associated with increased risk of “sudden cardiac death.” According to the CDC, “sudden cardiac death” causes 250,000 deaths a year.
There is no “magic” way to just cut back specifically on your abdominal fat. You’ve heard it before:
- Cut back on simple sugars – i.e. desserts and sugary soft drinks
- Cut back on daily calorie intake. You must consume on average less than 2000 calories a day to lose weight (unless you are doing a lot of aerobic, calorie burning exercise)
- Exercise helps to add to weight loss that occurs with calorie restriction. Try interval training (walk, cycle or jog for 3-4 minutes at a moderate pace, then for 30 seconds increase your speed to your absolute maximum, then return to the moderate pace for another 90 seconds. Then once again increase to your max for 30 seconds. You may only be able to do this cycle one or two times at the beginning (depending upon what kind of aerobic shape you are in), but pretty quickly you will find that you can get up to 5-8 complete cycles.
Couple this with reasonable caloric restriction and the fat will disappear faster than you thought possible.
*Before starting any exercise regimen, confirm with your physician that it is safe for you to do.
Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.