If you tend to carry more weight around the midsection than in the hips and thighs, you're considered an apple shape rather than a pear. Having an apple shape could make you more prone to metabolic syndrome, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or larger are especially at risk. With the right diet and lifestyle changes, however, you can help avoid these illnesses and protect your overall health.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has set specific guidelines for curbing metabolic syndrome, and following them is a smart move for apple-shaped women. The institute recommends eating a wide variety of fresh, canned or dried fruits and vegetables, filling half of your plate with these foods at mealtime. It also recommends choosing whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, quinoa and oatmeal, as well as healthy proteins such as fish, reduced-fat cheese, soy products, beans, peas and nuts.
Avoid These Foods
Along with providing a list of healthy choices, the institute also recommends avoiding certain items to protect your health. Steer clear of foods and beverages with added sugars, such as candy and sodas, as well as those high in sodium, which may lead to high blood pressure. Also avoid fats that are solid at room temperature, such as those from meat, butter, cheese and shortening, and limit intake of refined grains like white bread. Although moderate alcohol intake is OK, heavy drinking may raise triglyceride levels, increasing heart-disease risk. Moderate consumption is no more than one drink per day for women or no more than two drinks per day for men.
Eating for Weight Loss
If you're overweight, trimming down will reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. You can lose 1 to 2 pounds per week -- a safe goal -- by eating 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than you burn each day. With a moderate activity level, most people can estimate calorie burning by multiplying their weight by 15. For example, a 155-pound woman burns about 2,325 calories per day and will lose about 1 pound per week eating 1,825 calories per day.
Exercise will help you achieve a healthy weight -- and even if you don't slim down, the activity will help burn the visceral fat deep in your midsection, according to Harvard Health Publications. For the best results, get 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as jogging. Also perform muscle-building exercises such as yoga, weight training or push-ups and squats two to three times weekly.