It is now known that the size of different parts of our body provides clues as to whether we are at risk for a range of diseases, including gout, high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer.
Indeed, only the length of your fingers is linked to more than 40 diseases and personality traits, with the latest study in the American Journal of Human Biology showing that women with index fingers are longer than their ring fingers (presumably caused by estrogen exposure) tend to to go through the menopause later than people with longer ring fingers.
In some cases, the dimensions of certain body parts are determined by the conditions in the womb or during childhood; others may be the result of an adult lifestyle.
Here are some measurements that you can do at home and that can provide directions for your health.
It is now known that the size of different parts of our body provides clues as to whether we are at risk for a series of diseases …
NEED FOR BODY
This is the length of your legs compared to the length of your torso.
HOW TO MEASURE: First measure your height. Then sit down and measure your torso, from the top of your head to where your buttocks meet the chair. Subtract your trunk length from the total height to give leg length: this then gives you the leg-to-body ratio (for example, if your torso is 30 inches long and legs, 40 inches, the leg-to-body ratio is 30:40.
THE POTENTIAL RISKS: Having relatively short legs compared to your height can increase the risk of overweight or heart disease, type 2 diabetes and liver problems, according to a review last year in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR COLLAR SIZE
HOW TO MEASURE: Wrap a tape measure around your neck about an inch from where the neck meets the shoulders. The average measurement is 15 inches for a man and 13.5 inches for a woman.
THE POTENTIAL RISKS: Doctors from the Baskent University School of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey, who conducted a number of tests on men aged 40 to 60, discovered that people with a neck over 16.3 inches were more likely to have impotence or erectile dysfunction.
“This is the first study to identify a link between neck circumference and erectile dysfunction,” the researcher said in the journal Andrologia: “Measurement of the neck can give us predictive information about erectile dysfunction.”
Larger necks are also associated with sleep apnea – a condition where muscles in the throat relax during sleep, temporarily stopping breathing that can occur hundreds of times a night, leading to daytime fatigue and an increased risk of heart and other health problems . A larger neck means more soft tissue, which puts more pressure on the throat to limit breathing during sleep.
WHAT IS GOING ON? Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common sexual problem in men; about half of all men aged 40 to 70 will have some degree of ED. Causes are metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. One theory is that a larger neck circumference can be a marker that someone has metabolic syndrome.
Prostate and testicular cancers, as well as pre-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer and colon cancer, are more likely in people with relatively long legs, say the authors of Loughborough University.
Meanwhile, those with the longest legs have a 20 percent lower risk of dementia compared to their torsos, according to a study by King’s College London, published in the journal PLoS One.
WHAT IS GOING ON? Longer legs compared to trunk length is a sign of rapid growth and good nutrition during childhood, while relatively short legs imply slower growth and negative environmental factors, including poor nutrition, poverty and smoking of mothers during pregnancy.
When it comes to the positive benefits of longer legs, it is a theory that it is a marker for good nutrition. It can also reflect an increase in brain cells, creating a larger mental “reserve” that is better able to cope with the effects of dementia.
“Leg length is a marker for nutritional programming in early life, which can provide brain reserve later in life and protect against neurodegeneration,” the researchers wrote in the journal PLoS One.
In addition, people with longer legs are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. People with the shortest legs had a 20 percent increased risk of disease. One theory is that inadequate nutrition in the first years of life can cause long-term problems that can affect the body’s sensitivity to insulin (the hormone that draws up sugar from the blood vessels), leading to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The circumference of the average man’s head is 58.4 cm; the average woman is 56 cm.
HOW TO MEASURE: Wrap the tape around your head and use the most prominent part of your forehead above the eyebrows and the widest part of the back of your head.
THE POTENTIAL RISKS: A smaller head size can be linked to an increased risk of dementia. People with relatively smaller heads were 2.1 times more likely to have dementia, according to a study with 2,500 elderly people at the National University Hospital in Singapore.
A second study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuro-psychology found that people with a smaller head circumference and a low education were four times more likely to have dementia.
WHAT IS GOING ON?: One theory is that if human brains reach 93% of their full size at the age of six, good brain cell development in these early years can provide a buffer for later in life. The researchers from Singapore wrote in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: “[a] a smaller head circumference, indicating a smaller skull volume, hinders the maturity of the brain, which affects the ability to build up a cognitive reserve that can act as a protective factor against dementia in later life. “
FINGER RATIO POINTS TO ENJOY HAIR LOSS
HOW TO MEASURE: Measure each finger from where it meets the palm to the tip. To get the ratio, divide the length of the index finger by the length of the ring finger. The average ratio for a man is 0.95; for a woman it is approaching one.
POTENTIAL RISKS: In men, a longer ring finger has been associated with high fertility, aggression, an increased risk of ADHD and depression, as well as baldness, but a lower risk of heart attack.
In women, long ring fingers are associated with a reduced risk of early breast cancer. Women with longer ring fingers are also more likely to have arthrosis of the hand, according to Israeli research based on 1,500 people published in Rheumatology International.
WHAT IS GOING ON? A relatively long ring finger is a sign of exposure to higher levels of testosterone in the womb, while a relatively long index finger points to higher amounts of estrogen. One theory is that there are testosterone receptors on the fingers for a short time in fetal development and that the ring finger can have more of these receptors and grow faster when exposed to them.
Men with a long ring finger compared to their index finger are more likely to become bald. In a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, men with hair loss had a ratio of 0.889, much lower than the 0.971 seen in a control group with no problems with hair loss.
Hair loss in men is linked to testosterone exposure (which is also linked to longer ring fingers).
This is a comparison of waist and hip circumference.
HOW TO MEASURE: Calculate it by dividing your waist circumference in inches by your hip circumference. For example, a person with a 30-inch waist and a 38-inch hip has a waist-hip ratio of 0.78.
THE POTENTIAL RISKS: According to the World Health Organization, a healthy ratio for women is 0.85 or less and for men 0.9 or less. This type of ratio is associated with an apple-shaped body. “Apples” – people with more weight around the waist – run more health risks than “pears” – those who have more weight on their hips. Many studies have shown that accumulation of fat around the waist results in a greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Meanwhile, the children of women who are more pear-shaped, with a low waist-hip ratio, have performed better in intelligence tests. A 0.01 decrease in maternal ratio increased the child’s score in intelligence tests by 0.061 points, according to the University of California study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
Indeed, your waist-to-hip ratio may be a better indication of the risk of atherosclerosis or the swelling of the arteries, than just weight, according to a study of more than 400 women by Korea University. The researchers say it’s because the body fat distribution is more accurate than simple obesity when predicting the risk in postmenopausal women.
WHAT IS GOING ON?: A theory for the increased risk of type 2 diabetes for “apples” is that fat cells around the waist tend to be very active and produce substances that can damage the body to regulate blood sugar levels.
The apparent brain benefits for children of pear-shaped women are thought to be due to fatty acids stored in the fat around the hips, because fatty acids are vital for brain development.
In men, a longer ring finger has been associated with high fertility, aggression, an increased risk of ADHD and depression
Our final height, which we reach around the age of 20, is a visual mark of a series of events from conception to adulthood.
THE POTENTIAL RISKS: The longer a person, the greater the risk of six cancers, according to research from the World Cancer Research Fund International.
And a study by the American Cancer Society suggests a link between both height and weight and death from breast cancer.
The study, based on 424,000 postmenopausal women, 3,000 of whom developed breast cancer over a 14-year period, shows that breast cancer mortality increased with height. Women older than 5ft 6in were 64 percent more likely to die from the disease than those under 5ft.
Another study, from Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, shows a link between being big and a greater risk of prostate cancer. The risk of pancreatic cancer is linked to both height and weight, according to a study by the University of Oxford based on 400,000 people. The tallest had a 74 percent greater risk of disease than the shortest.
But men over 6ft 1in were 35 percent less likely to have a heart attack than men under 5ft 7in, according to a study by Harvard University, US
WHAT IS GOING ON?: One theory is that the genes, food, and hormones that we are exposed to in womb and childhood not only affect height, but also affect the growth and behavior of all cells in the body. Whatever cocktail results in higher altitude, it can also increase the risk of some diseases.