Body shape and cardiovascular health – Although OBESITY in general raises the risk for numerous health conditions, the distribution pattern of excess body fat correlates to the level of risk for CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD) as well as other health conditions such as DIABETES.

Numerous research studies affirm that people who carry excess body fat primarily around the waist, the “apple” or “fat tire” body shape, are three times more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions such as HYPERTENSION (high BLOOD PRESSURE), ATHEROSCLEROSISCORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD)ISCHEMIC HEART DISEASE (IHD), and PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE (PVD).

Waist and hip measurements

To measure the waist:

  1. Breathe out.
  2. Place a measuring tape (or piece of string) snugly but not cinched around the waist, between the crest of the hip bones and the navel (belly button).
  3. Note the measurement (or use a ruler to measure the string).

To measure the hips:

  1. Place a measuring tape (or piece of string) snugly but not cinched around the hips at their widest point.
  2. Note the measurement (or use a ruler to measure the string).

Researchers believe the “apple” pattern of body fat distribution reflects a higher level of INSULIN RESISTANCE than the “pear” body shape in which the body stores excess fat in the hips, thighs, and more equitably throughout the body. This is significant because INSULIN plays a key role in LIPID METABOLISM and regulating blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Excesses of these lipids (HYPERLIPIDEMIA) lead to atherosclerosis, the accumulation of deposits in the inner layer of the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the foundation of occlusive cardiovascular conditions such as CAD and PVD, and the cause of some types of hypertension (namely renal vascular hypertension).

The WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO (WHR), which is the WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE divided by the hip circumference, determines a person’s body shape classification. A WHR greater than 0.9 in men or 0.8 in women defines a body shape as “apple.” Maintaining a healthy weight and daily physical exercise are especially important for people who have “apple” body shapes. Exercise improves INSULIN sensitivity and helps keep blood lipid levels and blood pressure within healthy ranges. In turn, this reduces the risk for diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.

See also ABDOMINAL ADIPOSITY; EXERCISE AND HEALTH; LIFESTYLE AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH; WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT.

Body shape and cardiovascular health
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