How to Accurately Predict Your Heart Attack Risk

A new study indicates that hip-to-waist ratio may be a better predictor of heart attack risk than body-mass index, which is the current standard.

BMI Ignores Muscle Mass

The body-mass index, which is based on weight and height, does not measure where fat is on the body or how muscular a person might be. Athletes and completely out-of-shape people can have similar BMI scores. Previous research has demonstrated that a potbelly is a better predictor of heart trouble than total weight.

27,000-Person Study

The new study draws on information collected from over 27,000 people in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, including more than 12,000 who had undergone a heart attack.

The risk of heart attack rose as waist size grew in proportion to hip circumference. The 20 percent of the survey with the highest waist-to-hip size ratio were 2.5 times more likely to have heart attacks than the 20 percent with the lowest ratio.

Two-Part Strategy

The finding suggests a two-part strategy: trimming the abdomen, and possibly also increasing hip size by increasing muscle mass. Larger hips might be a marker of overall muscle mass.

USA Today November 3, 2005

Dr. Mercola‘s Comment:Three years ago, I ran an article about waist-to-hip measurements as well as body-mass index (BMI) being used as an indicator, not only of obesity, but of thickening carotid arteries.This new study now argues waist-to-hip measurements may better predict the risk of heart attack among different ethnic groups than BMI.

The suggested strategy of trimming your abdominal fat while building your muscle mass makes plenty of sense.In other words, a two-pronged approach in which diet and exercise are equally important makes perfect sense.

On the diet side, the best way to get started is to begin retooling your eating habits based on your body’s unique metabolic type.

Just as food is fuel for your body, gas is food for your car. It would seem reasonable to believe that your car is going to thrive on high-quality gas once you put it in your tank. But what if you were driving a diesel-powered vehicle? If that were the case, in a few minutes your car would have serious problems or stop running, and you would have a very expensive repair job ahead of you.

Just like your car, your body was designed for a certain correct fuel mixture — that is, a certain correct blend of the right food types. The further you deviate from this ideal, the more health problems are likely. That is why some of the sickest people I see in my practice are those who are “designed” to be eating high-protein foods but have decided to be vegetarians. Conversely, carb types who choose to eat high amounts of meats also don’t do very well.

If this concept of metabolic typing intrigues you I would encourage you to take my free test that will help you determine the best foods for you.

As far as exercise, you’ll get the most out of it if you treat it like a drug that must be precisely prescribed for you to achieve the maximum benefits. A daily exercise routine is one of the main factors in achieving optimal health.

The key to exercising effectively is to make sure the variables below are properly addressed. By doing so, you will ensure all your hard efforts are not wasted and are having a positive effect on your body. To aid you in your exercise efforts, there are three important variables to keep in mind:

  • Length of time
  • Frequency
  • Intensity

I encourage my patients to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60 to 90 minutes a day. Initially the frequency is daily; this is a treatment dose until you normalize your weight or insulin levels. Once normalized, you will only need to exercise three to four times a week.

You should exercise hard enough so that it is difficult to talk to someone next to you. However, if you cannot carry on a conversation AT ALL, then you have gone too far and need to decrease the intensity. Once you have started to burn fat effectively you can switch to more interesting exercise variations like Dr. Al Sears’ PACE program.

This is a combination of both endurance exercise and anaerobic type sprinting exercises (weight training will also work) to help increase the instant dramatic demands on your cardiovascular system that can precipitate heart attacks,such as in the winter when you might be shoveling snow.

Dr. Sears has quite a comprehensive program, and I would strongly encourage you to consider reviewing it. I do plan on doing a more comprehensive review on the PACE program sometime in the future.

I’ve devoted many pages on my Web site to the wonderful benefits exercise will do for your health. If you need some direction to get started, I urge you to review my beginner’s exercise page that includes links to other pages and a free table you can download to keep track of your progress.