Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
When it comes to body size, shape, and measurements, your body gives some really helpful clues. These tangible body measurements together with other key pieces of information can help you gauge health risks with heart, blood sugar and weight management and empower you towards making healthier choices.
Three of the simplest and most used body measurements include body mass index or BMI, waist circumference, and waist-height ratio. You can do these simple measurements at home.
Body mass index or BMI, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Many websites, like the CDC, provide BMI calculators. Medical clinics often calculate this for you and it should be available in your medical chart. A healthy weight BMI is considered 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI below 18.5 is underweight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is obese. BMI for children and teenagers is interpreted differently, even though the categories are the same.
Waist circumference is another common measurement used to indicate health risk. To measure waist circumference:
• Stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones.
• Make sure tape is horizontal around the waist.
• Keep the tape snug around the waist, but not compressing the skin.
• Measure your waist just after you breathe out.
Men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches have a higher health risk. Non-pregnant women have a higher risk if waist circumference is more than 35 inches.
The waist-height ratio is simply “keep your waist to less than half of your height”. For example, if you are five-foot or 60 inches tall, your waist circumference should be less than 30 inches. If you are six-foot or 72 inches tall, waist size should be less than 36 inches.
Comparison of Markers
BMI does not provide a significant relationship of health risks with obesity as expected. BMI measurements do not reflect the location of where fat is distributed in the body, like chest, waist, hips, thighs, etc. This can lead to misclassifications with too low or too high BMI’s depending on muscle mass and weight.
For example, a six-foot-tall 300 pound football player who has 8 percent body fat would have a BMI of over 40, which is considered obese, yet the reality is that his body would be that of an elite athlete. Compare the same height and weight measurement to someone who is “couch potato” and walks less than 1000 steps per day. They would have the same BMI, but in reality, are obese and have significantly elevated health risks.
Someone who has higher fat mass with little muscle can also have a normal BMI, but not be healthy. BMI only provides the mass of your body. So why use BMI? BMIs are considered more helpful in identifying risk for elevated blood pressure. For every pound of fat, there is an estimated one mile of extra blood vessels present in the tissue, which means your heart has to work harder.
Waist Circumference “Apple-Shape”
Waist circumference or apple-shape is a considered a significant metabolic risk factor. Your waistline measurement may indicate that you have a higher risk of obesity related concerns like heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure. An apple-shape waist circumference is considered a better indicator of elevated blood pressure compared to BMI. Waist circumference measurements, however, can get complex and even difficult to interpret. Because of the difficulties with interpretation in both BMI and waist circumference, experts recommend the waist-height ratio.
Waist-Height Ratio – Best Predictor
The waist-height ratio has been proven to be a better early health risk tool that is simpler and more reliable than BMI and waist circumference. It is more predictive and even more reliable as an early health risk factor as it relates with “central obesity”. A waist-height ratio that is higher than it should be is a known predictor of shorter life span related with obesity.
Any one of the above markers provides a piece of information. If it is applied with other pieces of information, then you get a much clearer picture about your heart health and numerous other things like your brain, immune, liver, pancreas, and digestive health. Here are some tips as it pertains to understanding your blood sugar.
Fasting Glucose and Hemoglobin A1C
Adults, teens and children should have their fasting glucose checked at least once or more each year. Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, the Western Diet and high stress has become the norm for too many. These factors readily affect blood sugar levels that cause visceral fat, central fat, or increased waist-height ratio. Normal fasting (10-12 hours overnight) blood sugar levels is 80 - 100. Ideal is about 75-85.
In addition to your fasting blood sugar level, know your hemoglobin A1C and fasting serum insulin levels. These lab values provide critical pieces of information that reflect long-term blood sugar and insulin function.
Hemoglobin A1C is a measurement of how much glucose or blood sugar has stuck to your red blood cells in the past 2-3 months, or glycosylated hemoglobin. When this number elevates, it is like the Richter scale. An increase of even one point, reflects more significant damage with your red blood cell, as cells become stiffer with more sugar attached to it. At the same time nerves and capillaries get inflamed and injured, making it harder for normal cell function, proper cell signaling, and good intake of nutrients. An ideal hemoglobin A1C is 4.8 to 5.4. Prediabetes is considered if your HbA1C is 5.7 – 6.4. Anything higher than 6.4 is considered indicative of diabetes.
Research shows that brain atrophy from blood sugar begins with hemoglobin A1C level of 5.3 and higher. This landmark research from several years ago shows that the higher the hemoglobin A1C levels over the course of one’s life, the greater loss of brain tissue later in life. “When comparing the degree of brain tissue loss in those individuals with the lowest hemoglobin A1C (4.4 to 5.2) to those having the highest hemoglobin A1C (5.9 to 9.0), the brain loss in those individuals with the highest hemoglobin A1C was almost doubled during a six-year period.” Even in non-diabetic individuals, a higher hemoglobin A1C level was associated with a decline in memory.
An often-forgotten piece to the puzzle in understanding blood sugar function is serum insulin. An ideal overnight fasting serum insulin level is less than 5. The higher this number goes past 15 reflects diminished insulin usage inside of cells. Insulin that builds-up in the bloodstream, but can’t get into cells, shows insulin resistance. This is a major factor of weight gain around the midsection and inflammation.
These are just a handful of elements to know about your body. Next week’s article will focus on some additional tips to help you know more about heart and cholesterol health.
If you found that you have some work to do with your waist-height ratio or you want to help optimize your heart health, blood sugar and weight management, a healthy balanced nutrient rich diet, physical activity, and additional nutrient support is the way to go. There are no quick fixes that replace these essential daily elements.
Oat beta glucan fiber, as discussed in last week’s article, helps many aspects of cholesterol and blood sugar metabolism.
Quality protein facilitates metabolic fat burning, especially first thing in the morning. This helps your liver burn fats and sugar and supports healthy weight loss. A balanced dietary approach is at the core with a healthy diet like The Leptin Diet.
Additional foundational support may include Super Dophilus, Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin, Daily Detoxify, Muscle Mag, and Leptinal. These supplements provide 5 key groups of nutrients – good flora, a multiple vitamin, detoxification support, magnesium, and essential fatty acids that are essential for basic functions. Other favorites can be added as needed.
Shift work, blue light/artificial light, processed foods high carbohydrate or sugar intake, high stress, chronic inflammation from overdoing it, gut stress and dysbiosis, blood sugar dysregulation, environmental toxins, sedentary lifestyles, and more contribute readily to unhealthy changes to body measurements. These add multiple layers of challenge to your body that impact heart, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight management, and cancer risks. Take a few minutes to check out your waist-height ratio and the more in-depth markers with blood sugar. Your body is trying to tell you something – are you listening?Image 1