Why Waist Size Matters
November 12, 2008, last updated December 5, 2014
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By Susan Callahan, Health Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial
Board]








Remember when the "perfect" measurements of a woman were
36-24-36?  A 24-inch waistline -- or something reasonably close
-- may have been discarded as a canard of a sexist past but new
studies may make us all have to take a second look at the
usefulness of the measurement.

It turns out that your waistline measurement may tell you more
about your overall health than any other statistic. Why?  
Because all fat is not created equal. And fat around the middle
may be the worst fat of all.

Your waist line measurement may be the most important
indicator of your overall health.   There is a direct correlation
between the size of your waist and your risk for developing
heart disease, stroke and diabetes and, if you are a man, erectile
dysfunction.

How?

In contrast to the popular notion of fat as an inert blob, fat is
actually an active substance. Fat leaks a constant stream of
hormones into your bloodstream and some of these hormones
are quite harmful.

Abdominal fat disrupts the natural hormone balances of both
men and women.

Carrying excess fat around your middle lowers healthy sperm
count in men, according to a 2014 study from Hospital Jean
Verdier in Bondy, France.

Among women, carrying extra abdominal fat operates to disrupt
appetite-controlling hormones, which leads to weight gain after
menopause, according to a 2008 study from Iowa State
University led by Dr. Laura Ritland.


In 2006, scientists from Canada and 63 other countries studied
the waist sizes of 168,000 men and women worldwide.

The results were, well, heart-stopping.  




























The Importance of The Number 5

The study showed that the risk of heart disease increased 21%
to  40% for every 5½ inch (14cm) a man added to his waist
line.  In women, the risk of heart disease increased 21% to
40% for every 5¾ inch(14.9cm) increase in  their waistlines.  

See the pattern?  Five (5) is a magic number. For every 5
inches you add around the middle, your risk of death by heart
disease skyrockets.

The culprit?   The usual suspects ---high blood sugar, lack of
exercise, and excess dietary fat.

High insulin levels convert excess blood-sugar into belly girth.  
We start to take the shape of apples or pumpkins rather than
pears. (Read more about
Sugar and the Disease Connection).

Both effects reduce blood flow to all areas of the body
especially the heart. Fat around the belly is the key culprit in
rising levels of heart disease and
snoring, which has been linked
to a 67% increased risk of stroke.

What is the ideal waistline number?  As you might expect,
recommendations vary. Under the guidelines of the
International Diabetes Federation, a normal waist measurement
for a woman is 32 inches or less, and for a man is 38 inches or
less.

Many doctors are even more stringent, recommending a target
of 30 inches or less for a woman and 35 for a man.

Not quite the old 24-inch waist, but it's a start.

So, what is an effective way to start reducing your waist line.  
Here are 4 simple steps.

1. Stack the odds in your favor by eating
foods that help to
shrink your waist.

2. Learn the exercises which work in building abdominal
muscles and the ones (crunches) which are almost a waste of
time.  (Read more about
abdominal exercises that help to
strengthen your core and the only type of aerobic exercise that
reduces your waist disproportionately.)

3. Learn the connection between lack of sleep,
especially poor
sleep caused by snoring, and a bulging waist line and other
health risks such as stroke.

4. Belly fat sets you up for diabetes, so learn how to reduce
your risk of developing
metabolic syndrome. (Read more about
foods that help reduce belly fat.)

5. Increase Cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise, in
particular, is effective in reducing your waistline. Walking briskly
for at least 45 minutes a day can help to reduce abdominal fat.
A 2013 study from in Japan found that walking more than 10
minutes a day for a year resulted in a significant reduction in
waist circumference in overweight men.

Running also reduces abdominal fat but is not advisable if you
have joint problems --- as many of us over 40 do.


Related:

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