Are you an apple or a pear? I’m not talking about your spirit fruit; this question refers to body type. While you may be familiar with these terms, you may not know there are unique health risks associated with “apple” body types. For those with an apple body shape, excess fat surrounds the internal organs, thus increasing the risk for heart disease. On the other hand, people with a pear shapes store excess fat on the hips, legs and butt.
So how do you determine your body type? Although you may already know where your body tends to "carry" a few extra pounds, measuring your waist circumference and/or waist to hip ratio can provide meaningful insight about your heart health. Because heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US, being aware of your risk factors is incredibly important!
How to Measure:
Place a measuring tape one inch above your belly button (don’t suck in). Wrap the measuring tape around your waist, creating a straight line around your entire mid-section. If your waist circumference measures more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, you may have an increased risk for heart disease. Next, measure your hips around the widest part and divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If the result is greater than 0.8, you have an apple shape.
I’m an apple, now what?
Having an apple shape (also called central obesity) is very common. So, are we all doomed? THANKFULLY, NO! Losing belly fat can greatly decrease risk and improve long-term heart health. Small changes make a big impact!
Reduce Sugar Intake Avoid/ cut back on refined carbohydrates (ex: white breads/ pastas, muffins, bagels, cereals) and sweets. These foods cause blood sugar spikes, which promotes fat-storage around the mid-section.
Increase Fiber Diets high in fiber can aid in losing weight (specifically belly fat) and are associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Examples of high fiber foods include: brown rice, whole grain breads, quinoa, most veggies and fruits.
Eat Protein Evidence suggests that protein is particularly effective in reducing belly fat. However, not all protein is created equal. Sources of high-quality protein include: lean meats, eggs, fish and other seafood, nuts and beans.
Chose healthy fats Anyone looking to lose weight should watch their fat intake, but avoiding fat entirely is not a good idea. The fat in your diet should comes from healthy sources, such as avocados, nuts and healthy oils (flax seed and olive oil).
Exercise Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to live a healthy life and avoid disease. Increasing aerobic exercise (such as walking, running, swimming, etc.) has been shown to substantially reduce belly fat.
Breaking it all down:
Heart disease is a serious health problem that can drastically reduce a person’s life expectancy. Having an apple body shape (excess belly fat) can greatly increase your chances of developing heart disease. The good news is reducing belly fat through exercise and specific diet changes can mitigate this risk.
Making these changes may not only help you fit into that old pair of jeans; they may save your life!