By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Carrying excess weight in the abdomen is sometimes called midriff bulge. A group in Norway conducted a test that showed the impact of having a midriff bulge.

They followed 2,340 women and 2,169 men of about 51 years of age (Norway’s total population is less than 6 million people.) The first evaluation took place during 1994-1995. They then looked at them again approximately 20 years later in 2015-2016.

They then measured two things. They looked at their level of obesity. They also looked at their actual waist circumference. They evaluated individuals in five areas related to being considered a frail individual. 

The first question was “During the last week, have you experienced that everything is a struggle?” This was meant to gauge exhaustion. The second measurement was walking speed. The third measurement was weakness. They measured grip strength. The fourth item was a question about typical physical activity levels. The last item was related to any involuntary weight loss over the previous six month period.

They divided the individuals into three groups. The first group was robust. They were able to do everything well. The second group was pre-frail. They were having some issues. The third group was considered frail.

When they began the study 70.5 percent of the participants were in the robust group. Another 28.4 percent were pre-frail. The remaining 1.1 percent were considered frail. So most participants were in good shape.

A large number of the robust group at the start were not overweight and had a normal waist circumference. However, the pre-frail and frail groups had a higher proportion of individuals who were obese and had a large waist circumference.

As you might expect, those individuals who were overweight and had a large waist circumference were more likely to be frail at the end of the study.

What was a little more surprising was for those individuals who did not have both of those. Individuals who were overweight at the start but had a normal waist circumference were not as liable to be frail. Likewise individuals with a normal weight and a large waist circumference were not liable to be frail.

The moral of the story is that by the time someone turns 51 they should strive to either not be overweight or have a normal waist circumference. If they are both overweight and have a large waist circumference, they are more likely to be frail individuals by the time they reach 70 years of age.

Weight alone is not the sole determining factor. The presence of a midriff bulge along with being overweight has more serious consequences.

COVID update- National number of new cases dropped from 279,000 to 259,000 this week. That is about the same number that we had before the current surge began. Sussex County went from 327 new cases to 308 this week. That is still a little higher than the beginning of the current surge. However, Sussex County also went from high risk to medium risk. 

All of this suggests that the current winter surge is following a similar 75 day long pattern as previous surges.