The Ten Second Physical

Back to Blog

The Ten Second Physical

August 21st 2007 -
One of my favorite mentors often had audiences perform physical examinations on themselves during his lectures. He would ask the attendees to place their hands at the sides of their chests and slowly slide them down toward their hips. As they did so he would state, “If you find your fingers pointing out as you approach your waist, you’re sick!”

His “ten-second physical” was quite accurate. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern confirmed his suggestion in a study published in the August 18, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study found that an individual’s waist-to-hip ratio is a strong indicator of the presence of calcified plaque in coronary arteries or in the aorta. This was true for both men and women. Those with the highest waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were nearly three times more likely to have arterial plaque than those with the lowest waist-to-hip ratio.

The waist-to-hip ratio is determined by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference. It is important to recognize that the waist measurement is to be taken at the level of the navel, not at the belt line. The difference may be quite significant, especially in the case of men who are attempting to keep the pant size of their youth by lowering the level at which they wear their belt.

The highest WHR was defined as greater than 1.009 in a man or greater than 0.92 in a woman. The lowest WHR in men was less than 0.906 and in women less than 0.802.
Determining one’s waist-to-hip ratio is a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to screen for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The reason for the strong correlation is uncertain, but it is quite likely related to what is called the metabolic syndrome. Individuals with the metabolic syndrome commonly have an increased waist size. Their bodies have become resistant to the action of insulin and they are in a pre-diabetic state. High blood pressure is common, as are unfavorable levels of blood fats including triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.

If you find that your waist-to-hip ratio is elevated you have an opportunity to correct it through diet, activity, and nutritional supplementation. Chromium Plus, a supplement I formulated several years ago to address the deficiencies that predispose to the metabolic syndrome can be very helpful in reversing the condition, which will hopefully prevent the development of diabetes and heart disease in the future.

Take time to do your own “ten-second physical” today. What you learn could save your life!

Dale Peterson, M.D.