Obesity

Because obesity is so closely linked to high blood pressure, unfavorable cholesterol levels, lack of exercise, and diabetes, it took scientists a long time to figure out whether obesity itself is an independent cardiac risk factor. Experts now agree that it is. Excess weight increases your risk for heart disease regardless of these other conditions. All forms of obesity are bad for your health, but excessive upper-body fat (an apple-shaped body) is more dangerous to the heart than lower-body obesity (the pear shape). In other words, fat stored at or above your waistline is worse than fat in your hips and thighs.

Your body mass index (BMI), which takes both height and weight into consideration, provides an accurate reflection of your body fat. (Use Table 4.3 to calculate your BMI.) You should aim for a BMI of between 18.5 and 24, the range that's considered normal. A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, and a value of 30 or higher is defined as obese.

You should also keep an eye on your waist measurement, which is an indication of your body-fat level. As people grow older, for example, their waist size often increases, though the scale tells them they weigh the same as they did the previous year. That's because people tend to lose muscle mass as they age, but if they gain enough fat, they maintain the same weight.

Unfortunately, it's much easier to diagnose obesity than to correct it. But because maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce cardiac risk by 35 percent to 55 percent, it's an important goal. Rather than focusing on the weight itself, it's best to work toward

What's My BMI?

To estimate your body mass index (BMI), first identify your weight (to the nearest ten pounds) in the top row of Table 4.3. Next, move your finger down the column below that weight until you come to the row that represents your height. The number at the intersection of your height and weight is your BMI.

TABLE 4.3 Body Mass Index

Height

Weight

TABLE 4.3 Body Mass Index

100

110

120

130

140

150

160

170

180

190

200

210

220

230

240 250

5'0"

20

21

23

25

27

29

31

33

35

37

39

41

43

45

47

49

5'1"

19

21

23

25

26

28

30

32

34

36

38

40

42

43

45

47

5'2"

18

20

22

24

26

27

29

31

33

35

37

38

40

42

44

46

5'3"

18

19

21

23

25

27

28

30

32

34

35

37

39

41

43

44

5'4"

17

19

21

22

24

26

27

29

31

33

34

36

38

39

41

43

5'5"

17

18

20

22

23

25

27

28

30

32

33

35

37

38

40

42

5'6"

16

18

19

21

23

24

26

27

29

31

32

34

36

37

39

40

5'7"

16

17

19

20

22

23

25

27

28

30

31

33

34

36

38

39

5'8"

15

17

18

20

21

23

24

26

27

29

30

32

33

35

36

38

5'9"

15

16

18

19

21

22

24

25

27

28

30

31

32

34

35

37

5'10"

14

16

17

19

20

22

23

24

26

27

29

30

32

33

34

36

5'11"

14

15

17

18

20

21

22

24

25

26

27

28

30

32

33

35

6'0"

14

15

16

18

19

20

22

23

24

26

27

28

30

31

33

34

6'1"

13

15

16

17

18

20

21

22

24

25

26

28

29

30

32

33

6'2"

13

14

15

17

18

19

21

22

23

24

26

27

28

30

31

32

6'3"

12

14

15

16

17

19

20

21

22

24

25

26

27

29

30

31

6'4"

12

13

15

16

17

18

19

21

22

23

24

26

27

28

29

Under 18.5

18.5-24

25-29

30 and above

Underweight Normal Overweight Obese

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