Body Shape of Major Importance to Your Future Heart Health

A new study from the University of Texas this week finds that your body shape – whether you are apple-shaped or pear-shaped – is the BEST predictor of your risk for future heart disease!!!  And that applies to both MEN AND WOMEN.  In fact, even normal weight people who had apple-shapes (larger waist size relative to their butt, hips or thighs) had higher calcium scores or early plaque on special heart scans that warned of early hardening of the arteries.  Another recent study last year found that our body shape or waist-to-hip ratio (commonly called WHR) was THREE TIMES MORE POWERFUL A PREDICTOR OF A HEART ATTACK than BMI or our weight overall.  That study also warned doctors that even their normal weight patients may have high heart risk (and so taking out the tape measure and sizing up the shape of our patients was important). 

When was the last time a doctor measured your waist size?  Probably for most people, NEVER.  So next office visit, bring a tape measure with your numbers and talk to your doctor if you are concerned that your body shape is putting your heart at risk.  There are a number of blood tests that can help your doctor determine if you have too much dangerous inside belly fat from your apple-shape – such as pre-diabetes, a special pattern of abnormal blood fats or abnormal liver tests from dangerous fat build up in the liver.

This research really is not new; it is something I have been writing about for years.  Studies have shown for over 20 years that where you carry your fat matters much more than how much fat you have overall.  

Okay, so I will say it again.  We should begin measuring our health in INCHES around the waist rather than POUNDS on the scale.  Believe it or not, losing just 2 inches around the waist – even if you don’t tip the scale much – can reduce your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes by almost 70%! 

But we also know from research that apple-shaped people are much more likely to have insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.  So what to do?  Apple-shapes are most successful losing inches and keeping them off if they follow a diet high in fiber (plant-based unprocessed foods like whole grain cereals and nuts) and healthy fats (omega-3 foods like cold-water fish, fish oil capsules, and nuts along with olive oil or canola oil).  And believe it or not – walking 30 minutes a day is about the best thing we can do to shrink belly fat – even more so than dieting or trying to lose weight.

So do you know what body shape you have?  Here’s how you determine whether you are apple-shaped (high WHR or waist to hip ratio) or pear-shaped (lower WHR or waist to hip ratio).  For women who may think they know their shape, the changes of menopause begin to turn all of us in to apple-shapes. To measure your shape:  First, measure around your waist to get your waist circumference. Next, measure around the widest part of your lower body to get your hip circumference.  Divide the first number by the second to get your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). If your WHR Is 0.80 or less, you are a “pear.” If your WHR Is greater than 0.80, you are an “apple.”  For men, the cut off is 0.9 (greater than 0.9 you are apple-shaped).

To learn everything you need to know about body shape and how it may impact your health – along with a complete program to help you lose inches around the waist rather than focusing on pounds – please read The Body Shape Solution to Weight Loss and Wellness.  You can also go to my website at to find out what shape you are and download free health monitoring/test result forms and tips for your shape. 

Isn’t it ironic that for women (and men for that matter) who hate their large butts, hips and thighs they now have something to smile about? As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

Warm regards,

Dr. Marie

Some highlights of the study published in the August 14, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:  Early heart disease was measured by coronary artery calcium (CAC) imaging, and a higher WHR was found to be a better discriminator of subclinical or silent disease than other common measures of obesity, such as body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference alone.  Those with the largest waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were almost twice as likely to have calcium deposits in the coronary arteries compared with those with the least calcification. They found that the likelihood of coronary calcification grew in direct proportion to increases in the WHR. There was no independent positive association observed for BMI or waist circumference. 

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2 Responses to “Body Shape of Major Importance to Your Future Heart Health”

  1. Healthy Lifestyle Features Says:

    Healthy Lifestyle Features

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting

  2. Arginine for the heart Says:

    Arginine for the heart

    Heart attack symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back , neck, jaw or stomach.