When Will You Die? Part 1

I know…it’s a pretty heavy subject to discuss, even worse during the holidays. Yet this is too important to punt for another year.  It is my gift to you: an opportunity to reflect and make some changes.  This three-part series will help you understand your longevity – defined as “a long individual life; and length or duration of life” — and what you can do about it NOW! After all, don’t we all share the goal of living a life of quality-filled days?  And that is our focus: for us, longevity infers quality, not quantity.

 Source: Data from National Center for Health Statistics produced by National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

The top indicators of longevity and wellness will forever be of great interest to most of us in the health and fitness industry. Thankfully, we live in a country where we value longevity and vitality: the medical community continues to provide us with the best advice and makes researching longevity a top priority.

I attended a workshop last month featuring one of my favorite folks in the industry, Dan John.  In our business, exercise is just one of those activities we know will help us live a longer life. So it makes sense that as someone who has been in the fitness business for more than 30 years, is a Fulbright Scholar and a college-level Religious Studies instructor, and who travels so much to speak that he logs more than 250,000 miles per year, Dan would have some knowledge on this subject.

Dan spoke at length about the definition of longevity and how we can measure it. His study of longevity is the basis for the assessment he completes on every athlete he sees, and we at Fitness on the Run (FOR) are progressively including his program into ours.

So, what determines our longevity?

Let’s get to what really matters: “Lifestyle” – that 40 percent that we control. Genetics is a whole other matter. We’ll have more on genetics in the New Year, but just because your grandmother, your aunt, and cousin died of heart disease doesn’t mean you will. Yet, if you are aware of this, maybe there are proactive steps you can take.

Managing the 40%: Our Lifestyle

The most important factors – lifestyle choices — influencing our longevity are:

•   2:1 Waist circumference to Height Ratio (WtHR)

•   Grip Strength

•   Sit and Rise Test (SRT)

•   Stand on 1-leg for 10-seconds

•   Regular Exercise

In this series, I’ll explain why each is important and ways to learn how to “pass” the test.

The Waist to Height Ratio

The Why

Most of you have probably heard of the BMI, or Body Mass Index. It is an arcane measure of a patient’s obesity that uses the ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms to the square of their height. (At FOR, we no longer conduct body composition measurements unless a client specifically requests. We had used the measurement of body fat, not the BMI, to assess the client’s body composition, but since nine out of 10 clients know if they need to work on body composition (i.e., fat loss) weighing and measuring isn’t necessary.)

Enter Dr. Margaret Ashwell, a consultant and former science director at the British Nutrition Foundation.  Ashwell studied and analyzed the health of 300,000 people and found that WHtR (Waist to Height Ratio) was a much better way to predict high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes than the (BMI).

In terms of cardiometabolic risk, abdominal fat affects organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys more adversely than fat around the hips and bottom, according to the study. BMI does not account for the actual distribution of fat around the body.

Ashwell reminds health professionals that the advantage of WHtR is the simplicity of the health message — that “keep your waist circumference to less than half your height” can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world. This is a much easier thought to hold in mind than BMI, where not only do you have to work out the ratio of your weight in kilos to the square of your height in meters, but also remember what the healthy range is.

Ashwell advises to measure the waist circumference accurately, measure it mid-way between the lower rib and the iliac crest (the top of the pelvic bone at the hip). She confirmed this is the method recommended by the World Health Organization.

How to Fix

If your height is more than double your waist circumference, congratulations. If it is not, you need to lose fat – specifically the excess around your waist band.

If you are reading this article, my hat goes off to you. You have taken the first step of being curious about where to start to form a quality-filled, infrequent illness, and content end-of-life experience. For those whose waist is more than half of your body in inches, I suggest a sleep, food, and exercise program that is sustainable and achievable to help you shed some of the excess weight off your waistline. Soon. Today.

Stay tuned to learn more about the other four indicators and how you can address them now.

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