What’s a healthy lifestyle and how do you measure it? There are a variety of ways to measure health.
• The easiest is to use the arithmetical body mass index (BMI) calculation, based on height and weight. The problem with using BMI as the measurement of a healthy lifestyle is that it does not account for whether your weight is made up of fat or muscle.
• Another commonly used method to assess a healthy lifestyle is a body fat test. Body fat can be measured in a variety of ways, ranging from skinfold thickness known as caliper testing to bioelectrical impedance, which is often measured with a sophisticated scale. Another accurate, but expensive, method of measuring body fat is underwater weighing, also called Densitometry.
A Healthy Lifestyle is Determined Based on Type of Body Fat
These common ways have been used for years to measure a person’s health and wellness. But, the recommendations are changing with new research. This new science focuses on different types of body fat. It is no longer enough just to know the percentage of body fat as an indicator of a healthy lifestyle.
Different Types of Body Fat Have Different Risks
When you eat more calories than you burn, the extra energy is stored by your body as fat. But, research also shows that fat plays an active role in health and disease.
Some fat is stored beneath your skin, which you can feel when you “pinch an inch.” This is called subcutaneous fat, and it is what most people think about when they think of body fat. It is also the fat that people see change when they gain or lose weight.
Subcutaneous fat is stored between the skin and muscle and may or may not be distributed evenly throughout the body. Some people tend to store fat in their hips and thighs while others store it in their upper body. Much of this is determined by genetics, which also influences where fat is lost during weight loss.
Visceral Fat is the Most Accurate Way to Gauge a Healthy Lifestyle
When fat is also stored beneath the muscle wall in the abdomen, it is called visceral fat. This type of fat surrounds the intestines and other internal organs.
Visceral fat is known to be associated with a greater risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease than subcutaneous fat. This is because this type of fat releases chemical signals that affect our organs and tissues. These chemicals regulate insulin resistance and inflammation.
Measure a Healthy Lifestyle with a Visceral Fat Reading
A simple way to tell if you have excess visceral fat is to measure your waist circumference. The National Institutes of Health have issued guidelines on healthy waist circumferences for men and women:
• For women: waist measurement should be less than 35 inches
• For men: waist measurement should be less than 40 inches
If your waist measurement is greater than 36” for females or 40” for males, you are at risk. This is especially true if you aren’t able to pinch much fat around your waist. That indicates that you have visceral fat inside your organs, which is metabolically active and harmful to your health.
Fat can also accumulate inside the liver, a condition that is called fatty liver disease. When you eat excessive amounts of sugar, the liver may turn it into fat. This is especially true if the sugar is fructose, which is often found listed on packaged foods and beverages as high fructose corn syrup. When the liver converts fructose to fat, it damages the liver and can lead to inflammation, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
According to Dr. Brian Parr, an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken, “The bottom line is that excess fat anywhere is unhealthy, but some forms of fat are particularly dangerous. Losing weight and body fat can reduce the negative effects of body fat. Improving your diet to reduce sugar intake is important for weight control and to minimize liver damage. Exercise also plays an essential role in reducing or reversing some of the negative effects of excess fat so you should strive to be more active every day regardless of your body weight.”
Click here to read about how to measure a healthy lifestyle.