Do you know your waist size? Knowing the girth of your midsection comes in handy for more than just selecting a pair of pants. Not only can visceral fat—the fat that accumulates around your abdominal organs—up your risk for heart disease and diabetes, researchers have found that belly fat is linked to an increased fall risk.
How visceral fat affects fall risk
Excess fat around the belly increases the risk for falls because it changes your center of gravity. People with belly fat have a higher center of gravity than those without it. Researchers found people 65 and over with central obesity were 37 percent more likely to fall.
Belly fat can also increase your risk for stroke, dementia and heart disease, all of which can make you more vulnerable to falling.
How to find your waist size
You can determine the size of your waist by standing up straight, exhaling and using a soft tape measure. You should place the tape measure about two inches above your hip bones. Men should have a waist size of less than 40 inches and women’s waists should be less than 35 inches.
It’s important to note that abdominal obesity can happen even if you have a normal weight. That’s because visceral fat can accumulate beneath the abdominal wall, and it’s not easy to lose with abdominal exercises.
How to reduce your fall risk and your waist size
Reduce your fall risk by:
- Talking to your doctor about any medications or medical conditions that make you dizzy, weak or affect your balance
- Wearing the right kind of shoes
- Getting your hearing checked and treating hearing loss
- Being physically active. Try these fall prevention exercises
- Reporting any falls to your healthcare team or discussing your concerns about falling with your doctor
Unfortunately, there’s no easy, quick way to reduce your waist size (despite what you may see on TV or online). Reducing belly fat is going to require diet changes and work. Here’s what you can do:
Reduce your sugar intake: Sugar is composed of glucose and fructose, and consuming a lot of added sugar can overload your liver. When it’s overloaded with fructose, the liver will turn the excess into fat. Fructose in particular can lead to an increase in belly fat and insulin resistance. To reduce belly fat, watch your sugar intake. Pay special attention to sugary drinks.
Get enough sleep: Researchers have found that not getting enough sleep predisposes you to weight gain. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night. Researchers found that getting five hours or less of sleep per night put you at risk for weight gain.
Be active: When it comes to abdominal fat, researchers found that inactivity rather than calorie intake was more likely to influence its accumulation. Activities like walking or strength training—rather than targeted ab workouts—are better suited to help you reduce belly fat.
If you have questions about how best to reduce your belly fat or fall risk or are concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor.