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Worried about dementia? Blast that belly fat

A new study revealed that people with large stomachs in their 40s are more likely to have dementia by the time they reach their 70s. TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer explains how to find your "waist-to-hip ratio" and five simple steps to shed that belly bulge.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Next, measure your hips in inches at the widest area.
  3. 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 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

Joy Bauer is the author of "Food Cures." For more information on healthy eating, visit her Web site at