Study finds every extra 2 inches around women’s waists raises risk of fractures by 7%

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The dreaded spread in middle age increases the risk of women breaking their bones, a study suggests.

Experts from Canada followed 20,000 men and women aged 40 to 70 for six years.

They found that every extra five inches on a woman’s waist increased the risk of breaking a bone by as much as 7 percent.

Researchers said the finding “has major public health implications” and goes against the notion that obese people have stronger bones because of the extra body weight that increases bone density.

The study found that for every extra five inches on a woman’s waist, a 7 percent higher risk of a fracture below the knee and a 3 percent higher risk of a fracture of any kind was found.

Experts say they suspect that overweight women were less able to regain their balance after a possible fall because of the extra weight on their waists.

This puts their ankles, which are not cushioned by soft tissues, at risk of breaking if they fall.

The NHS says women should try to keep their waistline below 80cm.

But given that 70 percent of women in England have a higher waistline, this suggests the majority are at greater risk for fractures.

Canadian experts say every two inches on a woman's waist increased her chance of breaking a bone in her lower leg by 7 percent (stock image)

Canadian experts say every two inches on a woman’s waist increased her chance of breaking a bone in her lower leg by 7 percent (stock image)

The study, conducted by researchers at Laval University in Quebec, involved 9,985 women and 9,372 men.

The participants were recruited between 2009-2010 and followed for about six years, during which more than 800 suffered a fracture.

The location of these fractures and the patient’s waist circumference and BMI were then analyzed to measure the difference in fracture risk.

Although waistline was described as the biggest factor in a woman’s risk of a fracture, they found that women with a higher BMI were also at greater risk.

Women with a BMI over 40, who are considered obese, were 40 percent more likely to have a fracture below their knee than women with a BMI of 25, who are considered healthy.

In England, 29 percent of women fall into the fattest category.

Women with a BMI of 27.5, who are considered overweight, had a 5% higher risk of a lower limb fracture compared to women with a healthy BMI.

How to calculate your waistline and what it means?

Measuring your waistline is a good way to check that you’re not carrying too much fat around your midsection, which can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

You can have a healthy BMI and still have excess belly fat, which means you are still at risk of developing these conditions.

To measure your waist:

  1. Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips.
  2. Wrap a tape measure around your waist halfway between these points.
  3. Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement.

Regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waistline:

  • 94 cm (37 inches) or more for men
  • 80 cm (31.5 inches) or more for women

You are at very high risk and should see a doctor if your waistline:

  • 102 cm (40 inches) or more for men
  • 88 cm (34 inches) or more for women

But experts saw the opposite trend in men.

Being underweight, a BMI below 18.5, was associated with a higher risk of arm fractures.

The experts said further research is needed to establish whether this trend is true across a larger sample size.

But it may be due to the fact that underweight men have less tissue on their arms that could protect their bones from fracture.

The study’s lead author, Dr Anne-Frederique Turcotte, an expert on hormones and bodily functions, said the data suggested waist circumference was a better measure of fracture risk in obese people.

“This may be due to visceral fat — fat that is highly metabolically active and stored deep in the abdomen, wrapped around the organs — secreting compounds that adversely affect bone strength,” she said.

She also theorized that the way people with larger waists carried their weight could also be behind the observed trend.

“We also know that obese people take longer to stabilize their bodies, for example when they trip,” she says.

“This is especially pronounced when weight is concentrated in the front of the body, suggesting that individuals with a distribution of body fat in the abdominal area are at higher risk of falling.”

dr. Turcotte said the discovery had major public health implications, given the time it takes fatter patients to recover from broken bones.

“We know that obese individuals who sustain a fracture are more likely to have other health problems that can lead to slower rehabilitation, increase the risk of postoperative complications and malunion (fractures that may not heal properly), which can lead to significant health care costs with entails,’ she said.

‘The aging of the population and the rising incidence of obesity could lead to an increase in the number of fractures in the coming years.’

She said another finding of the study, that being underweight was twice as likely to have an arm fracture, needed further investigation.

NHS advice warns that carrying too much fat on your waist can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

This is because the fat that accumulates around our waistlines is around various vital organs and usually indicates that there is fat in the organs themselves, even in people with a healthy BMI.

The Canadian analysis, which has not been peer-reviewed, was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht in the Netherlands.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count

• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grain

• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and large baked potato with skin

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and choose options with less fat and less sugar

• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

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