Are You Taking Chances With Your Numbers?

Are You Taking Chances With Your Numbers?

With a wide waist, you risk more than you probably know

For years, you've been used to looking down at a bathroom scale's needle to gauge your health. What you really need: a needle in the hands of someone who can draw your blood. With results from a simple blood test, you'll know what your current settings are and whether you need to take steps that will reset the settings to the factory originals. Here are the three key numbers you need to know:

1. Blood Pressure
These days, blood pressure machines are everywhere—at the pharmacy, the gym, the mall, even in Walmart and McDonald's. That's good. Actually, it's great. Because you need to track your blood pressure. It's your most crucial vital sign. If the force of blood pumping through your arteries is too high, it'll gouge the smooth inner lining of your arteries, and those nicks can trigger a chain reaction that leads to destructive inflammation and clotting. That's why high blood pressure is still the leading cause of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and impotence. It's clear that being overweight leads directly to high blood pressure.

Drop Your Waist Size and You'll Drop Your BP
Losing just 10 percent of any weight you've gained since you were 18 (that's only 4 pounds if you've gained 40) can result in a blood pressure decrease of 7 mm Hg from your systolic number (that's the top one) and 4 mm Hg from your diastolic one (the bottom number). That's enough to make a healthy difference.

2. Cholesterol
Hear the word cholesterol and you're likely to think of the bad stuff connected to eggs, heart attacks, and a mandate from your doctor. But good cholesterol is part of your body's arterial repair kit; it's designed to help you, though it doesn't always happen that way. Think of cholesterol as grout. But you have two kinds. Your arterial handyman—let's call him Lester—can use the cheap, thick grout (this is the LDL cholesterol grout that Lester goes crazy with, slapping on more and more and more every time an artery is nicked), or he can use premium-grade grout (this is the HDL cholesterol grout—it's compact and powerful, and it actually takes extra gunk away, leaving a smooth finish).

People who are obese are more likely to have too much of that LDL grout and not enough premium-grade HDL grout. This can lead to a chain of events that can result in a heart attack or other serious health conditions.

3. Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is another substance that can damage your arteries if levels are too high. And if you have a lot of belly fat (omentum), your chances of a blood sugar disorder like type 2 diabetes are greater, because lots of belly fat will make it harder for insulin and glucose to do their jobs. Studies show that men with a waist of 40 inches or more have 12 times the risk of getting diabetes, compared with men with a waist smaller than 35 inches. For women, having a 37-inch waist is that much riskier than having a 32 1/2-incher.

Best Bets for Better Blood Sugar
To keep blood sugar levels down, avoid foods with simple sugars and lousy aging fats (trans and saturated fats). Do about 1,000 calories' worth of activity a week—that is, about 30 minutes of walking a day and 20 minutes of strength training 3 days a week—to make your muscles much more sensitive to insulin, which allows glucose to do its duty inside your cells rather than wreak havoc in your bloodstream.

The Other Major Risks
Even if your numbers in some health categories are as perfect as a Michelle Kwan triple toe-loop, you're not free of risk. Being overweight or obese also leads to the following:

  • Higher Levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP): Elevated CRP indicates an inflammatory reaction somewhere in your body. And if it's high, your risk of heart disease is greater, because significant inflammation anywhere in your body increases inflammation in your blood vessels. Obesity is associated with higher levels of CRP.
  • Higher Risk of Cancer: The inflammation resulting from omentum (belly) fat also causes dysfunction in the system that protects you from cancer. In fact, there's a direct correlation between waist size and an increased risk of hormonally sensitive tumors, such as breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
  • Higher Risk of Sleep Apnea Fat: around your waist correlates with a thick neck, and that can obstruct your breathing while you sleep (you're at higher risk if your neck size is more than 17 inches). And you're more likely to develop nick-causing high blood pressure if you have sleep apnea.
  • Higher Risk of Joint Problems: Your knees are prone to wear and tear if they have to carry a heavier load (that is, more fat in your body) than they're designed to. When you gain 10 pounds of body weight, it feels more like 30 pounds of weight gain to your knees while you're walking. 

You can avoid many of these risks—and get better numbers quickly—by reducing your waist size. When overweight people (with an average weight of 225 pounds) lose about 7.5 percent of their body weight (about 17 pounds, or 4 inches of waist size), they improve their HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, BP, and blood sugar numbers by—get this—20 percent!

Take the first steps to growing younger and healthier with the RealAge Test.



Wellness is a difficult word to define. Traditionally wellness has meant the opposite of illness and the absence of disease and disability. More recently wellness has come to describe something that you have personal control over. ...

Wellness is now a word used to describe living the best possible life you can regardless of whether you have a disease or disability. Your wellness is not only related to your physical health, but is a combination of things including spiritual wellness, social wellness, mental wellness and emotional wellness. Wellness is seen as a combination of mind, body and spirit. Different people may have different ideas about wellness. There is no single set standard for wellness and wellness is a difficult thing to quantify.