Measuring your waist-line reflects your state of health and risks

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

It is a shocking observation that most adult people are ‘pot-bellied’ in Sri Lanka, especially those who lead an affluent lifestyle.

Contract workers, those wearing helmets seen sweating on top of new building constructions in the urban cities, poorer strata of people and farmers in the rural areas toiling in their rice fields seems to escape this phenomenon.

The reason is obvious, the hard-working outdoor people are the poorer lot, and thrive on meagre salaries, unable to enjoy calorie dense foods the richer enjoys, moving about in vehicles. Stand in front of a five-star hotel one evening, you see the lucky affluent men, including their family members getting out from their luxury vehicles, whizzing eagerly for a delightful evening meal. Most of these adult people including their kids are over-weight with pot bellies.

There is no media recognition of this situation and advising people to take remedial measures to stay within the normal BMI range, instead more exposure to TV channels focusing on weeping sad soap operas during prime time.

Occasionally, good health programs do appear on tele, but unfortunately, the medical personnel who discusses health issues use a language that the average person does not understand: more suitable for a medical audience.

Most people tend to eat processed foods because they are cheaper and tastier on the taste buds. Foods made of processed wheat flour and rice flour are being sold on the streets and in most food outlets. Indulging in this sort of foods is a risk factor for obesity.

Such facilities like the gyms and walking paths are available, and it’s the shapely young ones patronize those gyms for better looking bodies, and daily walks are mainly seen by those who have had heart episodes, or on doctor’s advice.

Most of these adult victims have had no time before the cardiac event to go for walks daily, because they don’t create the time for it. After the cardiac event they seems to find the time.

Importance of measuring your waistline

My advice is that all adults- men and women should measure their mid-waist-lines at some stage in their life. This is easy and is not about your clothing size.

You need to measure with a tape round the circumference of your belly at the belly button level (narrowest area of the trunk).

You need to stand up straight.

Make sure it’s not too tight or too lose when you take the measurement.

Don’t hold your breath and take the measurement after you exhale. Do not suck your abdominal wall muscles into your cavity.

Men should have a waist less than 40 inches around your waist line, and less than 35 inches for women.

If your measurements are above those, you are carrying excess weight around the middle, chances are you’re harbouring a potentially dangerous amount of visceral fat in your tummy and you should start on a health plan to reduce to the normal range.

Having bulges on the sides of the abdomen (love handles), having fatty thighs and backs and upper arms are harmless, other than for cosmetic reasons. They are just under the skin fat (subcutaneous fat) and are quite innocuous

Having a pot belly above the healthy waistline measurements carries risks of certain chronic diseases that can shorten your life.

The pot belly is mainly due to the loads of visceral fat within your abdominal cavity. This visceral fat is dangerous, and you are exposed to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnoea, atherosclerosis (thickening of blood vessels with plaques), colo-rectal cancer, breast cancer, and linked to erectile dysfunction in men over 60 years of age.

Visceral fat is now considered to be an endocrine organ secreting hormones and other chemicals that carry the risk of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease.

  • To lower your risk of the above diseases, start on a diet plan lower in kilojoules and saturated fat. Eat more proteins and fibre, reduce your starch and added sugar beverages and foods.
  • Do some daily exercise: walking 10,000 steps daily (takes one and a half hours) burns over 200 kilocalories. You may gradually increase your steps to 20,000. Wear a pedometer or a Fitbit watch to keep a record of your exercise level and as an impetus to do more.
  • If you are more enthusiastic do some aerobic exercises, bicycle rides. Bicycle crunching seems to help: crunching the stomach while extending your legs.
  • Daily swimming is another way of reducing your belly fat and toning your body.

It is so simple to assume that by measuring the abdominal girth as a routine by both men and women, taking remedial measures if excessive, may reduce the health costs and ease the burden on hospital beds in private and public hospitals, and further create a healthy nation. Health administrators in Sri Lanka needs to think on those lines and take remedial measures in public awareness and education through the mass media.

Bottom line

So, the above lifestyle changes will inevitably reduce your waist circumference and your risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes type 2 enhancing insulin sensitivity. Even the incidence of bronchial asthma can be reduced by overweight sufferers by taking simple remedial measures.

Most of all you could prolong your longevity and prevent risk of premature death.

Please take my advice seriously and measure your abdominal girth, today and see your doctor if above the range of  measurements mentioned before.

Dr Gunatillake-Health editor is a member of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. Member of the Australian Association of Cosmetic Surgery. Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (UK), Corresponding Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, Member of the International Societies of Cosmetic surgery, Fellow of the International College of Surgery (US), Australian diplomat for the International Society of Plastic, Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery, Board member of the International Society of Aesthetic Surgery, Member of the American Academy of Aesthetic & restorative Surgery, Life Member of the College of Surgeons, Sri Lanka, Batchelor of Medicine & Surgery (Cey): Government scholar to UK for further studies.

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