healthy-weight-Waist-circumference

Healthy Weight

Healthy Weight

The concept of healthy weight has become more popular especially in the wake of increasing NCDs. A healthy weight is a number associated with a low risk of weight-related diseases and health issues. Although healthy weight guidelines have been developed at population level, each person’s healthy weight range varies and depends on factors such as age, sex, genetics, existing medical history, lifestyle habits, and weight as a young adult. It is also important to mention that weight is only one of the many indicators of health, others include blood pressure, blood cholesterol level, blood sugar level to mention a few. A person who is not at a “normal” weight according to body mass index (BMI, more below) may be healthy if he or she has healthy eating habits and exercises regularly, whereas people who are skinny but do not exercise or eat healthy are not necessarily healthy just because they are thin. Losing fat and losing weight do not necessarily mean the same thing.

Two methods are used to give a clearer picture of how one’s weight may affect their health. These are measuring the waistline and calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Body mass index (BMI) measures weight standardized for height. For adults and adolescents, being in the ‘safe range’ of weight should not be a basis for laxity because as already mentioned, weight is only one of the indicators. Likewise, being in the ‘unsafe range’ should be a point of concern and not for worry. Consulting a professional will help to alley any fears because further investigations will be carried out. The good news is that it helps if you to start asking questions early.

Waist size matters

Where you carry your weight is just as important as how much weight you carry when it comes to health. We store some fat right under the skin while other fat is stored deeper inside, cushioning and protecting the heart, lungs, liver and other organs. When this deeper fat, called visceral fat becomes excessive, it is a problem because it increases the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer. A large belly – a large waistline or waist circumference – is a sign of increased abdominal fat, which is an indicator of excess visceral fat. Men are more likely to put on fat around the belly (pot belly, beer belly, “one pack”), while women put on fat around the hips and thighs. Some women are genetically inclined to put on belly fat (apple body type) while others have the pear body type with more fat around the hips and thighs. However, even the pear body types can eventually put on a lot of belly fat. Even at a healthy weight, excess fat carried around the waist can increase one’s risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

So how do you tell whether your waist circumference is healthy or not? The waist-height ratio. Keeping your waist circumference at less than half of your height can help prevent the onset of high blood pressure, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

This is a very easy assessment to do at home. Measure a piece of string equal to your height. Fold it in half. Does it go round your waist? Or is your waist bigger? If your waist is bigger, it means that your waist circumference is bigger than half your height and you do need to lose some fat around your belly. As an adult who has stopped growing in terms of height, you can keep this piece of string and use it to monitor yourself. Alternatively, you could buy a tape measure.

In addition to your waist-height ratio, and if you haven’t done so already, consider having a more comprehensive assessment done to include blood pressure, random blood glucose and cholesterol.

Remember a single measurement of waist circumference or BMI does not tell us everything we need to know about our obesity-related health issues. Tracking waist circumference with BMI over time is an excellent way to understand how the body changes as one ages and to monitor one’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Achieving a healthy weight is not always as simple as eating healthy and being active, but it is a great start.

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Lutgard-Musiime

Lutgard Musiime is a nutritionist, author and nutrition blogger with a long and varied career in the nutrition sector. From working among vulnerable communities in Karamoja at the start of her career in 2016, to her service currently as a nutrition master trainer with SPOON Foundation - USA and co-founder of Nutrition Garage, she seeks to improve health outcomes of the people she interacts with through nutrition. Lutgard is also currently the Vice President, Nutrition Society of Uganda. Through her book Differently Abled Nutrition, Lutgard reaches out to parents and guardians of children with disabilities, which affects feeding patterns. These children are usually missing from most nutrition-related interventions.

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