Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apple or pear? (Part 1 of 3)

Every person is shaped differently. Two people can be the same height and weight and yet be built in totally different ways. Our size, our shape, and how we carry our excess weight can increase or decrease our health risks due to obesity.

Where we carry our excess weight is a determinant of our overall health risk. Men or women who store fat around their stomach or middle portion of the body are at greater risk of complications than those who carry weight on their hips, thighs, or buttocks. This is largely because the fat accumulation around the vital bodily organs is more critical than those that accumulate around the legs and thighs. When fat accumulates in the abdomen and waist area it doesn’t just build up under the skin, it also builds up inside the entire upper torso and accumulates around the heart, liver, kidneys, and intestine and can even begin to grow inside these organs, thus restricting blood flow and interfering with function. Imagine our heart is wrapped by a thick layer of fat. Can it function well?

Often compared to the shape of an apple or a pear, body shapes are important in assessing future risk of obesity-related health concerns. We can determine where our fat accumulates and if we are shaped more like an apple or a pear by calculating our waist-to-hip ratio.

To determine if we have a healthy waist-to-hip ratio, use a measuring tape to measure
our waist at the smaller circumference of our natural waist, usually about 3 cm just above the belly button. Then measure the circumference of our hips at the widest part of our buttocks. To ensure accuracy, measure the waist and the hips three (3) times each and get the average of the 3 measurements for both the waist and the hips. Make sure too we place the tape measure directly on our skin, do not measure over our clothes. Make the tape snug on our skin, but don't pinch the skin together.

To determine the ratio, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. For instance, if waist is 30 inches and hip is 34 inches, then the waist-to-hip ratio will be 30/34=0.88. If waist is 34 inches and hip is 30 inches, then the waist-to-hip ratio will be 34/30=1.13.

(Please note that the unit for measurement is immaterial in this case. What important is we keep using the same unit of measurement for both waist and hip. If we use inches to measure our waist, use inches for hip too. If we use centimeters, then use it for both waist and hip measurement. Many web sites suggest that you do the conversion from inches to centimeters, or vice versa. In Mathematics, the same quantitative measurement units will be cancelled off when we perform division and looking for a ratio. Remember: Use the same unit of measurement.)

FOR MEN: If the ratio is less than 1.00, a hip and leg fat storage pattern (pear shape) is indicated. If the ratio is 1.00 or greater, an abdominal storage pattern (apple shape) is indicated. A ratio of 1.00 or less is considered safe.

FOR WOMEN: If the ratio is 0.80 or less, a hip and leg pattern (pear shape) is indicated. If the ratio is greater than 0.80, an abdominal storage pattern (apple shape) is indicated. A ratio of 0.80 or less is considered safe.

Continue to Part 2...

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