If you really have to make new year resolutions..

Mike the Psych's Blog

here are some sensible ones from Dr Mark Porter who writes for the Times (with my own comments added):looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647

  1. Get a tape measure and measure your waist. This should be less than half your height to maintain good health. Body Mass Index (bmi) is so out-of-date as I’ve written before.
  2. Buy a blood pressure monitor as one in three of us develops high blood pressure which often requires lifelong treatment. Taking your BP at home may be more accurate than if taken in a stressful environment such as a hospital or GP’s surgery (the well-known white coat effect).
  3. Buy a petrol car next time as diesel has been proved to be dirtier fuel and unhealthy in built-up areas
  4. Learn what sepsis looks like. Blood poisoning or septicaemia as it was once called kills thousands of people a year. It typically starts with bacterial infections of the chest…

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That roll of fat round your waistline could shorten your life

stick_figure_overweight_scale_1600_wht_3853Having a roll of fat round your waist, even if you are thin elsewhere, doubles the risk of an early death compared to people who are obese.

Having fat distributed around your body is actually healthier than just having it round your middle according to a major study of 15,000 people over 15 years carried out by the Mayo clinic in Minnesota.

It doesn’t matter what your bmi is, if you you are “centrally obese” you are more likely to die earlier. If you are a man you are twice as likely to die early.

Central obesity is defined as having a wider waist (measured at the narrowest point) than hips (measured around the widest point of the buttocks) for men and for women having a waist larger than 90% of their hip measurement.

Why should this be? Even Professor Fransisco Lopez-Jiminez, the director of preventive cardiology at the clinic isn’t sure but there are several theories.

  • Having fat outside the abdomen is a good thing as it might have some protective effects entirely opposite to bad fats.
  • People with an abnormal central distribution of fat often have less muscle mass elsewhere which means they are less able to use sugar in useful ways.
  • People who put down fat may be more likely to have a type of fat called “visceral fat” which clumps round the organs. Professor Jimmy Bell from the University of Westminster thought that could be crucial as “over the longterm visceral fat leads to sustained chronic systemic inflammation … believed to have a detrimental effect on many levels – the heart, metabolism, and even cognition

Professor Bell, who wasn’t involved in the study, thought the research was useful in understanding some of the apparent anomalies in obesity research. “We know from our research that there are different body types where people do not fit into the standard bmi. They might have the right bmi but the wrong fat distribution.”

Professor Lopez-Jiminez also said that more research is needed because “we don’t really know what makes fat go to those areas of the body in some people while in others it might go to the right place”.

Earlier research on women‘s body shape found links between bmi, body shape and dementia.

And height:waist ratio has been strongly recommended as an alternative to the bmi which doesn’t take into account muscle weight.

Main source: The Times

Fighting fit? The new Heavy Brigade

Seems it’s not just us civilians who are getting bigger and more obese.

More than 25,000 British military personnel have been diagnosed as obese in the last 4 years. That’s several battalions!

There is now an “obesity working group” looking into the problem and devising ways to keep people fitter and increase  their knowledge of how to eat more healthily.

A spokesman for the National Obesity Forum said; “These people have got plenty of time to keep in shape and I think it’s a responsibility to feed them properly and give them any amount of time to do exercises and keep themselves in shape”.

obstacle_course_boot_camp_1600_wht_11454Soldiers are supposed to have carefully managed fitness routines involving at least four 1-hour sessions of PT a week.

They can also have a diet ranging from 1,500 to 7,000 calories a day depending on their duties. Clearly not everyone is following the exercise routine or eating healthily.

As one senior officer was quoted as saying; “There are obese soldiers in just about every regiment in the British Army and no unit is immune. It’s also a reflection of the quality of food served in some army cookhouses. Unless the armed forces changes the way it feeds its personnel you will have a problem”.

Of course there are statistics and statistics! The number had been calculated using the much disputed body mass index (BMI)  and the obesity cut-off point of 30.

The MoD rightly points out that this can be misleading as “it doesn’t differentiate between body fat and muscle and says individuals are assessed on their ability to carry out military activities rather than on their weight”.

It’s not just the Brits. It wasn’t that long ago that 40% of the German Army was considered overweight and in 2012 the American Army dismissed over 1,600 soldiers for excess body weight, a 15- fold increase on the figures in 2007.

 

Waistline should be half your height

apple_measure_tape_1600_wht_13129There is now further evidence on this from research carried out by Cass Business School at the University of London. It claims to be the first study to analyse official health records to measure the impact on life expectancy on obesity as measured by the ratio between your waist and height.

This is clearly not true as I posted about this in May 2013 describing research at Oxford Brookes University which also looked at the Health & Lifestyle survey, which goes back to 1984, and the Health Survey for England which studies 8,000 people every year.

Leaving these academic institutions to fight it out the results from both studies have the same message: your waistline – as measured at the narrowest point without breathing in – should be half your height or less. So a person who is 5′ 10″ should have a waist of no more than 35″, and a person who is 5′ 4′  have  a waist of no more than 32″.

If a man expands his waistline to 60% of his height he loses 1.7 years of life and a woman doing the same 1.4 years.

Dr Margaret Ashwell, a co-author of the study, said the rule applied regardless of a person’s age or ethnicity. Dr Ashwell first popularised the discovery that apple-shaped obesity is more dangerous than pear-shaped obesity in 1996 (see post: “What fruit is your bum“) because of the amount of central fat in the body which affects vital organs causing heart problems and diabetes unlike fat on thighs and hips.

She said people who rely on their body-mass index (BMI) live on false hope. Using the waist;height ratio puts 69% of the population at risk compared to 56% if you use BMI.

But whether adopting this as the preferred measure will make any difference is anybody’s guess. GPs, who recently attacked childhood obesity welcomed the findings but thought it was unclear whether “worrying people about their weight actually motivates them to make a long-term commitment to lifestyle changes”.

Health predictor? Use your your tape measure

figure_measure_1600_wht_5484Forget bmi (body mass index) as a predictor of your health and well-being, particularly the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It’s long been doubted as it takes no account of muscles and definess any well-built athlete, serviceman, or similar person as overweight.

As an example the Times compared Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito. Both have the same bmi but Arnold has a waist-height ratio of 0.47, Danny’s is 0.71.

A far better predictor is your waist-height ratio. The scientists who carried out the study say GPs should be telling people to keep their waist circumferences to less than half their height.

 Researchers at Oxford Brookes University looked at the Health & Lifestyle survey, which goes back to 1984, and the Health Survey for England which studies 8,000 people every year.

Death rates were low for the 10% of people with the lowest waist-height ratios and rose steadily as the ratio increased. People with waists 80% of their height at age 30 lost about 20 years of life.

While bmi shows a similar trend it’s not as strong as using the waist-height ratio.

And for apple-shaped people bmi may give false re-assurance as central fat is more dangerous than fat on the hips. See something I blogged elsewhere: Apples & Pears – What fruit is your bum?