Monday, July 19, 2010

Comparing Apples to Pears

The Alzheimer’s Association sent a newsletter this week that says “pear” shaped women are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than “apple” shaped women. This is the first health bulletin I recall that gives apple-shaped women, who carry excess weight around their waists, an advantage over pear-shaped ladies, who carry their weight on their hips and thighs.

I know most women would prefer to be slim and trim, but that becomes harder as we grow older. In fact, a recent obesity report says that slightly more than one-third of Americans are obese. Obesity in my home state of Missouri is 29.3 % and we weigh in at No. 12 in the state rankings.

If you don’t consider yourself to be obese, but merely overweight, you should check the guidelines. BMI (body mass index) is used to determine whether an adult is merely overweight or obese. If your index is in the 25-29.9 range, you are overweight. Anything over the magic 29.9 indicates obesity. If you don’t know your BMI, you can find free BMI calculators on the Web. One thing is obvious when I look at mine—I just need to be a couple of inches taller. Who would have ever thought my goal in life would be to have a BMI that falls into the “overweight” category.

I’ve been honest enough to rank myself with the apple shapes for many years. The extra weight around my middle makes it hard for me to tie my shoes and dang near impossible for me to polish my toenails. That is a major problem during the sandal-days of summer. The only thing I can say is that once I huff and puff until I get it done, the super-duper nail polish I buy stays in place for several weeks.

Finding my way around polishing my toenails doesn’t make me any healthier. Apple shapes have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. The recommendation for both pear-shaped and apple-shaped women is, of course, to lose weight. Higher risks for any obesity-linked disease have to do with the type of fat stored in our bodies. Women who carry their weight on their behinds, hips and thighs store the kind of fat that increases their risk of Alzheimer’s. Cognitive tests show a relationship between the amount of fat and forgetfulness.

I have high cholesterol and triglycerides. My apple shape puts me at a higher risk for heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Holy cow, that should be enough to get me on a serious diet. It is easier to think of dieting right after my cholesterol and fat rich breakfast of bacon and eggs. I have been a bad, bad apple-shaped woman this morning. I don’t make a habit of eating such a breakfast, but there’s something about a Saturday morning that makes it irresistible. I’m usually in such a rush that I’m lucky to eat an English muffin or bagel. Skimping on breakfast goes against my upbringing.

I was raised to believe that a day should start with a good breakfast. Health and nutrition guides tout the importance of breakfast based on student test scores and adult productivity in the workplace. Any diet aficionado will tell you to eat your calories earlier in the day. I’m pretty sure most diets don’t recommend the kind of breakfast I ate this morning, but the general idea of taking time for breakfast is there.

The bottom line is that to reduce Alzheimer’s risk, pear-shaped women should lose weight. Don’t we all know that exercise and losing weight is part of a healthy lifestyle? I have a gym membership and, at least most of the time, opt for low calorie, no-sugar, omega rich foods, I lose probably fifty pounds a year, but it’s the same five pounds over and over.

Genetics determine our body shape, and we just need to do the best we can with our inheritance from our foremothers. Living a long life isn’t the only goal we have as intelligent human beings. We are stewards of our bodies and want to live happy, healthy, independent lives.

copyright July 2010 L. S. Fisher
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