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Eating an apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but having an apple-shaped body may actually mean more visits to the doctor.
“Apple-shaped” describes people with ample waists and a tendency to gain weight in their abdomens. Pear-shaped folks have smaller waists and carry their extra pounds in the hips, thighs and butt. Pears are often women, thanks to the effects of estrogen. While both men and women can be apple-shaped, especially if they have metabolic syndrome, the shape is more common among men.
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed if someone has some of the following problems: high blood pressure, obesity, elevated blood sugar or a bad number on their lipid panel, which includes measures of several types of fat (e.g., triglycerides) and fatty substances in the blood.
No matter what your body shape, being overweight can increase your risk of heart attack and other ailments. But research suggests where you carry your excess weight matters. Body fat that’s just under your skin is called subcutaneous – what someone might grab if they tried to “pinch an inch” at their waistline. This type of fat can accumulate on the thighs and hips, where it isn’t thought to be seriously problematic.
Belly fat, on the other hand, is made up of both subcutaneous and visceral fat, the kind that goes deeper into the body, sometimes crowding the internal organs. Visceral fat appears to have a negative effect on blood lipid level and insulin resistance.
Even if you ‘re not technically overweight, having a lot of belly fat can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, colorectal cancer and even dementia.
While it may not be the most sophisticated method, your tape measure is the simplest and least expensive way to gauge whether you have excess belly fat. The targeted maximum waist size for women is 35 inches and for men, it’s 40.
You might also want to determine your hip-to-waist ratio. Measure your waist at its smallest point and then your hips at the widest point. Divide the first number by the second. According to an essay on abcnews.go.com, a ratio of 0.8 or less for a woman means you’re a pear. Higher than that, you’re an apple. A man with at least a 0.9 ratio qualifies as an apple.
Yes, it’s harder to keep that waist measurement down as you get older, especially if ample bellies run in your family. But the right program of exercise and healthy eating can help you manage your weight and, in many cases, your belt size.
Shoot for a schedule of 150 minutes of cardio exercise and two sessions of strength training each week. Fuel these efforts with a diet that includes lean sources of protein and fiber-rich food, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils. Cut back on sugars and saturated fats, and avoid foods with trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, choose sources of healthy fats in your diet, such as avocados and walnuts.
These guidelines to a healthy lifestyle apply whether you’re an apple, pear, straight up-and-down carrot or any other shape of fruit or vegetable in the produce bin.
To find out if you’re at risk for heart disease, take an online HeartAware assessment. You can also call 630-527-2800 to schedule a heart scan or make an appointment online.
Learn more about heart and vascular services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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