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Health and Wellness - The Mackie Report 

Waist Away

The words "Metabolic Syndrome X" may sound like something from a late 20th-century sci-fi thriller, but it actually reflects one of the most serious health problems middle-aged Americans face today. It is a cluster of risk factors associated with elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, elevated fasting glucose and excess abdominal fat. If not controlled, Metabolic Syndrome X can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There is a direct correlation between this syndrome and the size of one's waist, or the amount of abdominal fat they're carrying. In my new book Lose Your Love Handles, published in April, I go into this topic in depth. And new health guidelines issued in May by the National Cholesterol Education Programs are consistent with my book. The guidelines indicate that men with waistlines greater than 40 inches and women with waistlines greater than 35 inches run the greatest risks for contracting type 2 diabetes, especially as they get older.

Even more alarming are the heart attack risks associated with carrying excess fat around the waistline. Recent statistics indicate that each year, 1.5 million people have heart attacks; of these, 500,000 die from the heart attacks, and 250,00 die within one hour of the heart attack. And because, by age 60, every fifth man and every 17th woman on average develop heart disease, those carrying excess inches need to trim the fat from their waists.

I outline a three-step program in my book. The first entails learning the strategies for creating a healthy eating plan, including analyzing the glycemic index of the foods in your diet. That index refers to foods' complexity and how long it takes to digest them. Foods with a low glycemic index are usually higher in fiber and nutritional content and take the longest to digest. Foods containing inordinate amounts of sugar burn up very quickly and have a high glycemic index. They tend to be stored more quickly, especially in the over-fat, sedentary individual, and particularly in the abdominal area for men and women with fat above the belt.

The other two steps involve aerobic walking to help shed excess fat and a "core stabilization program" to target the midsection, low back and hips. In the meantime, watch what you eat, exercise regularly and keep off the inches you lose by not backsliding into old patterns.

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