Saturday, August 22, 2009

BMI and Waist Circumference: Know Both Numbers

Although BMI is the global standard for evaluating weight status, it does have limitations. While BMI is closely linked to total body fat, it does not provide any information about where the fat is located. And when it comes to weight and health, where fat is carried on the body is extremely important. Studies have found that excess fat stored at the waist or in the abdominal area places people at greater risk for certain health problems, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, even if their BMI is in the healthy range.
To help compensate for this limitation, experts recommend that waist circumference be included in the assessment of an individual’s weight–health risk. For example, there are men with broad shoulders and lean hips who, according to the BMI formula, are overweight. These men have little abdominal fat, however, and their health risk will be low as well. Similarly, there are women who carry their fat in their hips and thighs and have small waists. Same story. Factoring the individual’s waist circumference into the BMI equation gives a more accurate picture of health risk than does BMI alone.
How is waist circumference determined? There are a variety of methods out there, but the easiest and most common way involves placing a tape measure around the waist just above the hips while standing. Health risk increases when the waist circumference exceeds 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. The bottom line for women and men: know your BMI and waistcircumference numbers. If they are too high, it’s time to take action and lose weight.
When it comes to gaining weight, most women know exactly where their extra pounds seem to end up in their rear, hips, and thighs. And several studies have confirmed women’s observations. But what many women don’t appreciate about their pear-shaped fat distribution is that it puts them at less of a health risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease compared with guys, who tend to store fat in their middle. However, studies have also found that after menopause,women appear to lose their disease-prevention advantage. That’s because hormonal shifts trigger the accumulation of more fat in the tummy area, making women more like men and predisposing them to the same health risks.
While most men are programmed by nature to have less fat than women, they also are programmed to gain weight in the biological danger zone their gut. Android fat, or apple-shaped fat, is more common in men than in women. Studies have concluded that fat that accumulates in the abdominal area is linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But there is good news for guys. Studies have also found that men can significantly reduce their health risk by losing weight.

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