Measuring your risk of heart disease

If you want to assess your risk of heart disease, skip the scale and take out your tape measure.

If you want to assess your risk of heart disease, skip the scale and take out your tape measure.  Up until recently, much emphasis was placed on weight, or Body Mass Index (BMI), which compares your weight to your height as a risk factor. Now, studies are showing that assessing health risks is less about weight, and more about measurements.

Regardless of weight, people who carry more fat around their abdomen have a greater risk of developing heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and type 2 diabetes.  Even people with small bellies have an increased risk.

There is some debate as to what waist size you should aim for.  Some reports suggest that men should aim for less than 40 inches, while women should aim for 35 inches.  Other repots set higher standards, recommend 36 and 30 inches for men and women, respectively.  To err on the side of caution- aim for the lower numbers.  To correctly measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out (but don’t suck in).  The tape measure should not be snug- but not tight around your waist.

Unfortunately, a few extra crunches or sit ups won’t help much to trim your waistline.  Instead, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 5-6 days per week.  Power walking, running and strength training are excellent options to shed fat.  Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, heart healthy fats and lean proteins.  Limit processed foods and adhere to proper portion sizes.

Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs.  She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers Boot Camps, mom and baby fitness classes and personal training.  For fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

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