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Big Tummy Could Mean Big Trouble

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

With new research showing that abdominal fat is a major risk
factor for heart disease, diabetes and other serious health
problems, Duke University Medical Center researchers said that
waist circumference can also be a reliable risk indicator.

Recent surveys have shown that more than a third of all
Americans are overweight or obese. According to the Duke
researchers, there are several simple methods for determining
weight status.

One of the most common methods is the Body Mass Index (BMI).
Lisa Giannetto, M.D., assistant clinical professor at the
Duke Executive Health
Program
, says the BMI is one tool a physician can use to
help determine risks for some of the most serious medical
conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

"You can calculate
your BMI
yourself," Giannetto said. "Just enter your weight
in pounds and divide that by your height in inches, squared.
Then multiply that number by 703 to get your BMI.

"Typically a BMI between 19 and 25 is normal," she
continued. "A number between 25 and 30 is overweight, and a BMI
over 30 is classified as obese."

Recent research suggests that an even easier way to assess
health risks may be the waist measurement.

"This is because where you store your body fat is actually
more important than how much fat you have," explained
Giannetto. "People who carry more weight in their abdomen tend
to have higher amounts of visceral fat, or abdominal fat, and
that's a much higher risk for diseases such as heart disease,
high cholesterol and diabetes.

"Just measure with a tape measure around the largest part of
your waist. You can certainly start at the belly button, but
there are people who are significantly overweight who may be a
little bit droopy, so we tell them to measure there."

Giannetto says waist circumference can be a good indicator
to see whether your weight may be putting you at risk for
serious health problems.

"A waist size in women greater than 35 inches and a waist
size in men greater than 40 inches is also a risk factor,
because we're concerned where the body fat is and where the
weight is," Giannetto said. "It's definitely more dangerous to
carry extra weight in the middle of your body than in the
bottom half."

"This is a measurement that's very easy for you to do and
easy for your doctor to do," she continued. "It's a tool, not
an absolute, just as the BMI is a tool we use when we look at
overall risk factors for disease in patients."

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