Brought to you by Good Health magazine
Do you think that because you're slim and aren't carrying extra weight that you're healthy? Think again, says dietitian and exercise physiologist Caitlin Reid.
For many of us the number on the scales changes how we feel about ourselves. Gain a kilo or two and we try to work it off. Lose weight and we're on top of the world. Feelings aside, our weight is also a tool used to determine how healthy we are for our height, as well as our risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
With society declaring thinness as the 'ideal', many of us believe the scales are the greatest indicator of our health. However, irrespective of the numbers, body weight alone doesn't tell us how healthy we are on the inside.
Other measures of health
If we can't rely on weight to determine our health, what can we rely on? Luckily for us there are many other health measurements that can be taken and collectively used to determine our overall health.
1. Waist circumference
Where you store fat may be more important than your weight or BMI, with research showing abdominal fat to be more closely linked to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. It's recommended that our waist circumference be less than 94cm for men and less than 80cm for women. A larger circumference indicates fat deposits on the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas, making them work harder and increasing the risk of disease.
Measuring waist circumference is useful when monitoring lifestyle changes because regular exercise can reduce waist circumference and cardiometabolic risk (heart and endocrine conditions like diabetes), without changing the BMI. Measure your waist circumference by placing the tape measure on your skin.
The correct place to measure your waist is horizontally halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone that is slightly above your belly button. Breathe in and out normally, and then take the measure. The tape should be snug, without squeezing the skin.
2. Fitness level
To improve your longevity, get active. Boosting your cardiovascular fitness can reduce mortality rate by an impressive 44 percent, independent of weight loss, while US research has found people with the lowest cardiovascular fitness are four times as likely to die than those with the highest cardiovascular fitness. Good muscular strength and flexibility is also important, as it enables us to maintain physical independence as we age, as well as our muscle mass.
You can test your cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility by completing certain tests. Contact your exercise physiologist for details.
3. Blood pressure
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as it's being pumped around the body by the heart. High blood pressure puts a strain on our blood vessels and over time can damage and weaken our arteries and heart. It is the leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and heart failure and is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure. It doesn't usually come with any warning signs, so visit your GP to have it checked each year. Normal blood pressure is a reading of 120/80mmHg or less, while high blood pressure is diagnosed at 140/90mmHg.
For the full story, see the January issue of Good Health. Subscribe to 12 issues of Good Health for just $49.95 (that's a saving of $33.45 on the retail price) and and go into the draw to WIN one of 10 fabulous Hawaiian holiday packages, valued at over $12,000 each! The perfect Christmas gift!