Friday, March 17, 2006

Your waistline: clue to heart disease

A new study finds that waist measurements are a better indicator of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than body mass index (BMI).

Data from 170,000 participants in the International Day for the Evaluation of Abdominal Obesity (IDEA) study show that a patient's waist circumference is directly associated with risk of CVD independent of the patient's BMI.

The study revealed a relationship between both BMI and waist circumference with physician-reported CVD and risk factors. Both were strong predictors, reported Dr Haffner. However, the association between waist circumference and CVD was stronger than for BMI. "The bigger the waist, the stronger the risk of vascular disease."

The study found that in men, the risk of heart disease increased by between 21 and 40 per cent for every 14cm (5.5in) increase in waist size. In women, the same increase in heart disease risk occurred for every 14.9cm growth in waist size.

The researchers say that fat deposited deep inside the abdomen, which is seen in an expanding waist, secretes toxins into the bloodstream, raises cholesterol and increases the body's resistance to insulin, essential for controlling blood sugar.

The study confirms the importance of measuring waist circumference, alongside current measures such as BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose and lipid levels, in identifying patients in a primary care setting who are at increased cardiometabolic risk.

To determine your waist circumference, locate the upper hip bone and place a measuring tape around the abdomen (ensuring that the tape measure is horizontal). The tape measure should be snug but should not cause compressions on the skin.

Is waist circumference a bigger predictor than fitness level? In this study of 50=95 year olds, adiposity and fitness continue to be significant predictors of insulin sensitivity into old age, with abdominal obesity being the most important single factor.

Now, there's evidence showing that the fastest way to burn off belly fat is with a combination of weight-training and aerobic exercise.

Some evidence for this comes from a six-month study of thirty obese women. They were separated into three groups: a control group, an aerobic exercise group and a combined exercise group.
  • The aerobic group did one hour of cardiovascular exercise (60-70% maximum heart rate) six days a week.
  • The combined exercise program involved weight training (3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and aerobic exercise (3 days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday).

The combined exercise group lost almost three times more abdominal subcutaneous fat and 13% more visceral fat than the aerobic-only group.

Time to go to the gym?

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