03/07/2012 08:44

Watch your waistline, ladies

Dr Rosemary looks at why women's waistlines are on the increase and the damage it is doing to their health.

Woman measuring her waist (© Getty Images)

When was the last time you measured your waist? If my friends and patients are anything to go by, the way most women measure their body shape is by their clothing size, whether they need a 14, or something smaller or larger. Most can't remember the last time they actually took their measurements.

So here's a challenge - find a tape measure, and check your waist size, which means taking it round your body halfway between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips. If the results of a recent survey by Nuffield Health are anything to go by, you'll be in for a bit of a shock.

It seems that the classic 36-24-36 inch hourglass figure of the average British woman really does now belong to the history books. Not only that, but the survey put paid to the idea that British women tend to be 'pear shaped' - carrying any excess weight around their hips, rather than their waist.

The survey analysed the data from more than 54,000 individuals who attended health MOT's across the UK, who were aiming to improve their health and fitness. The results showed that the average waist measurement was a staggering 84.9cm (33.5 inches). This has implications not just for the way women look, but also more importantly for their health.

Most people are aware that being overweight has implications for your health, such as increasing the risk of osteoarthritis and high blood pressure, but where you store those excess pounds is also very important. In particular, carrying excess weight round your middle, or being 'apple shaped', especially increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and some cancers, such as breast, ovary and endometrial cancer. The risk goes up if your waist is greater than 80cm - and that applied to 57% of the women in the survey. Having a large waist can also be linked to menstrual irregularities, and disturbed ovulation, which can have implications for fertility, which is worrying when half of the women in the survey were aged between 26 and 46. The average waist-to-hip ratio - a measure of shape - was 0.83, indicating that hips are only slightly bigger than waists, and certainly a far cry from either hour glass or pear shaped.

Though it is true that women do tend to change shape as they get older, particularly after the menopause, acquiring 'middle age spread' is neither normal nor healthy. The uncomfortable truth is that it is a sign of weight gain, and lack of exercise.

The good news is that it is possible for women of all ages to have a healthy shape. Even if you have always had a large waist, and all your family are well and truly apple shaped (which are the excuses I hear most often), if you are determined you can whittle down your middle with diet and exercise. I know because in the last six months I've done it myself, and managed to reduce my waist by three inches. I know I don't just look better, but the chances are I'll live a longer healthier life.

For more information about Dr Rosemary Leonard visit www.drrosemaryleonard.co.uk.

All content within Her is provided for general information purposes only. The content should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other qualified health care professional and should not be used as the basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. This content is provided to Microsoft by (a third party) and Microsoft is not able to verify the accuracy or reliability of this information. Microsoft shall not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or treatment chosen by any user based on the content. (Microsoft does not endorse any third party websites listed or health product or service mentioned or recommended in the content and shall not be liable for them.) Always consult your GP if you have any concerns about your health.

07/07/2012 08:41
The hour glass figure is still there. It's just that the sand is stuck at the narrowest part.
07/07/2012 15:17

lol, I like that .....'its just that the sand is stuck at the narrowest part!' so true. 

And this article by dr rosemary is very direct and truthful too.

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