This post and the next one (for this week), were both originally published in 2009. However, by popular request, they are being republished this week as I enjoy some vaca time. Enjoy!
The internet has its way of changing one’s mood as often as one’s mind in a moment’s notice. I was never more manipulated than I was last Friday when I opened one of my weekly medical e-newsletters. The subject: general medical news—just so I can keep up on everything outside of my rather narrow specialty. And just to reassure my patient readers, my other e-newsletters include: pediatric otolaryngology and the socioeconomic issues in medicine, the latter so I don’t miss any breakthroughs in gender equity.
Last week the British Medical Journal published a paper entitled : Thigh circumference and risk of heart disease and premature death: prospective cohort study by Heitmann and Frederiksen, medical researchers in Denmark. In their pursuit for a marker to predict heart disease, they have followed 1436 men and 1380 women (ages 35-65 years) in their MONICA project. They measure the incidence of dying from heart disease at 10 and 12.5 years from onset of study. Thigh circumference was one of the markers studied.
Now, before I tell you the results of this rather disturbing article, you need to know something about me and my relationship to my thighs. I come from a genetic pool of people who boast many good qualities, but beautiful, svelte (thin) thighs is not one of those qualities. In fact, we have a special word in Yiddish for thighs—pulkies—which brings forth images of rather large drumsticks on a big Thanksgiving turkey. And take my word for it, most of my ethnic group has wrestled with this part of our bodies ever since, well, probably since forever. In fact, I think the pulkie has its first debut in the biblical story of Jacob who wrestled with the angel. His thigh (or pulkie) was wounded. And from that anatomic mishap some of the most important kosher dietary restrictions have been observed by Jews for centuries (although not to the benefit of our thighs, alas).
But I digress. Sorry, but I cannot face the music so quickly.
These researchers used very sophisticated statistics. (I have to confess I haven’t even heard of half the tests they used). But according to the editorial written just days after publication of this incredible piece of medical news, the researchers were reported to have adjusted for everything: “smoking, education, physical activity, menopause (in women), body fat percentage, height, body mass index, waist circumference, alcohol intake, systolic blood pressure, and concentrations of total cholesterol and triglycerides”. (But not genetic predisposition, hmmm).
And what did they find? Well first, let me tell you one more bit of personal information that might give you some additional insight into why I think this is blog worthy. When, in 1998, I had both of my knees reconstructed after ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears, I had to rehab my knees. I did a series of free weights exercises. Thirty reps, 20 pounds, three times a day, every day for 6 months. It really hurt, but I said, “No pain, no gain.” (The same mantra that afflicted me for the more than 40 years of dieting and exercise to slim down what I believed to be genetically pre-determined, generous thighs.) Well, the knees rehabbed just great. And when it was over, incredibly, my thighs had shrunk so that they no longer really looked like the pulkies I had learned to live with (no, never loved) from time immemorial. And so I have kept up my daily leg exercises until this day.
And then, these nervy Danish researchers found that the smaller the thigh circumference the greater the risk for heart disease. The threshold measurement for women was around 60 cm. Above the threshold there was no benefit to having much larger thighs (no big surprise there), but under 60 cm, you could be in trouble!
Quickly, I got out my tape measure. I measured my upper thighs (“just below the gluteal crease”—the upper thigh). 24.5” which is, yes!, 62.2 cms on the left and 24.0” or 60.9 cms on the right. (I just re-measured to be absolutely certain.) Thank G-d, my thighs were, for once, not too big, not too small, but just right! I would have freaked if they were smaller than the recommended 60 cms.
So there you have it. The latest, greatest news on your thighs (and mine) and our risk of dying from heart disease. Eat your heart out (hmm, is there a pun in there?) you women with skinny thighs! To think that I could have made these thighs so small that I would die from a heart attack. I wonder if the plastic surgeons and dermatologists will see a reduction in the number of pulkie liposuctions this month?