Are you in your 40s and a little heavy in the middle? Be careful, because you might be at risk for dementia by the time you reach your 70s. TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer explains why it's important to decrease your "waist-to-hip ratio" and five simple steps to shed that belly bulge.
People with larger stomachs in their 40s are more likely to have dementia when they reach their 70s, according to a study published Wednesday by the journal Neurology.
Previous research has consistently confirmed that where you carry fat — NOT necessarily how much fat you’re carrying — markedly increases the risk of calcium and plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart. However, now there’s a connection to dementia as well.
According to this study, the bigger your belly in relationship to your hips (this is known as the “waist-to-hip ratio”) seems to indicate whether you’re at risk for dementia later in life. In other words, you gotta get rid of that potbelly … even if your body weight falls within a normal range on the scale!
Why does belly fat matter more than cellulite on your thighs?
Abdominal fat — as opposed to fat around the hips — seems to trigger a chain of inflammatory activities that translates into harmful metabolic changes and plaque buildup … and ultimately heart disease and dementia.
Therefore, everyone should know their waist-to-hip ratio. It’s simple to take. Here’s how:
- While standing, use a tape measure to measure your waist in inches at its smallest point OR at your navel (without holding in or pushing out your tummy).
- Next, measure your hips in inches at the widest area.
- Lastly, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
That’s your waist-to-hip ratio.
For example: if your waist measures 38” and your hips measure 38” …. you’re 1.0. Ultimately, you want your waist to be smaller than your hips.
Ideal waist-to-hip ratio:
For men, .9 or less
For women, .8 or less
For both men and women, 1.0 or higher is considered "at risk."
The good news is that even small improvements prove to be beneficial. Lose an inch or two off your waist and you’re already better off. And obviously the way to do that is through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Joy’s five belly-bulging diet tips
- Think positive:
Successful weight loss is 50 percent attitude. Decide you’re going to lose a few inches off your belly and just do it!
- Purge your home of unhealthy food:
Go through the cabinets and fridge and toss or donate the unhealthy, problematic junk food. Also, be sure to get rid of your personal trigger foods. These are the foods that once you start eating, you can’t stop.
- Move it and lose it:
Commit to 30 minutes of daily exercise — anything goes. Take a walk, join an exercise class, follow along with a workout video, ride your bike ...
- Eat protein and fiber at meals
Protein and fiber are a winning weight-loss combination. Compared to carbohydrate and fat, protein takes more time to digest and therefore helps keep you feeling full. Fiber, which comes packaged in high-quality carbohydrate-rich food (think veggies, fruit and whole grains), helps by absorbing water and then expanding in your stomach — literally creating bulk to make you feel fuller and have less room for more.
- Catch enough zzz’s
Sleep deprivation causes an imbalance in certain hormones, including ghrelin (which increases appetite) and leptin (which decreases appetite). When we don’t get enough sleep, our levels of ghrelin go up (weight gain) and levels of leptin go down (so we are hungrier). That said, adults should aim for at least seven hours of shut-eye each night.
Joy Bauer is the author of "Food Cures." For more information on healthy eating, visit her Web site at joybauernutrition.com
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