Winter 2006
Are You an Apple or a Pear? Measuring Up in the Heart Fruit Cup

The sports world boasts a number of cups, from the America's Cup to the Ryder Cup. But here's a cup that's much more important: the Heart Fruit Cup. It's full of apples and pears, and the important thing for you to know is, which are you?

"Apples" are people whose weight collects around the abdomen, while "pears" carry their weight at the hips. What difference does this make? Apples are at higher risk for heart disease than their pear-shaped friends are.

This is because the apple shape means more visceral (Latin for "body organ") fat, which gathers around your internal organs. "That type of fat is generally more harmful to your body than subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat, which sticks to the buttocks and thighs," explains Bridgeport Hospital–affiliated cardiologist Adam Schussheim, MD.

Measure your waist just above your navel. In men a waist circumference of 37 inches or more increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, and if it's 40 inches, you're at high risk. In women, it's a waist circumference of 32 inches or more that makes you an apple—and 35 inches makes you a high-risk apple.

Your waist-to-hip ratio can also help you determine your risk. Here's how to determine that number:

  • Measure around the smallest part of your waistline. (For instance, 44 inches.)
  • Measure your hips at the widest point. (For instance, 39 inches.)
  • Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. (44/39=1.12)

A healthy waist/hip ratio for women is 0.80 or lower, and for men, 1.0 or lower.

If you are an apple, you can reduce your chances of heart disease by reducing your waistline. Two helpful hints:

  1. Lose two inches off your waist. Decrease your calorie intake by at least 25 percent. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies) instead of simple carbs (bread, rice, pasta); limit your fat and protein; and avoid white-flour foods.

  2. Get plenty of exercise: Walk 30 minutes every day to burn apple-zone fat.

These simple steps can help you win the Heart Fruit Cup—and that could be the most important challenge of your life!