You’re not alone if one of your main criteria in deciding what shirt to wear is whether or not it clings to your belly. The midsection is commonly a “problem area” for both men and women, especially as we get older. We may attempt to eat healthier meals or exercise on a regular basis—determined to watch our midsection shrink. Usually, our motivation is based largely on appearance. The motivating factor next in line may be overall health, but have you considered that excess fat in your belly may also increase your risk for heart disease?
A New Awareness
Compared to fat or excess weight in the hips and thighs, increased fat levels in the midsection raises the risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But a study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association discovered that women with increased belly fat are at a higher risk of heart disease than men. During the study 500,000 people (both men and women) between the ages of 40-69 were followed for seven years. Each participant was measured in various ways to determine their BMI (body mass index), waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. A waist-to-hip ratio can be determined by measuring your waist at the smallest part and dividing that number by the measurement of your hips along the widest part. This ratio more accurately determines the amount of abdominal, or visceral fat—fat that is more dangerous to your heart. The study found that even women with the lowest waist-to-hip ratio who experienced a slight increase in measurement increased their risk of heart disease by 50%. Interestingly, those who initially had a higher waist-to-hip ratio experienced a 10-20% increase in heart disease risk compared to women who had a higher BMI.
The Dangers of Belly Fat
The visceral fat typically found in the midsection is rooted deep in the abdomen surrounding organs like the liver and pancreas. The location of visceral fat can sometimes cause metabolic changes that raise insulin resistance and triglyceride levels. The hormonal changes that women experience throughout their lifetime might be the reason more women seem to store fat in their midsection than men. An endocrinologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago noted how difficult it can be to track fat buildup on the abdomen. The scale may never indicate weight-gain, but the body can redistribute the fat to the midsection. This is one reason a BMI is not the best gauge for determining the amount of fat in your body. Without even realizing it, you may have an increased risk for heart disease.
There are several things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease by lowering your waist-to-hip ratio. Eating three or more servings of whole grains may lower the amount of visceral fat in your abdomen. Consuming healthy fats (poly- and monounsaturated fats) like olive oil, fish, and nuts can work to regulate your insulin and prevent excess fat from being stored in your abdomen. It’s not a surprise to hear that regular exercise not only helps with weight-loss but helps decrease the amount of stored visceral fat. Managing your stress and getting at least six hours of sleep each night are two other important ways you can stay healthy and avoid excess weight gain.
At NEW You Weight Loss, we understand that diet and exercise aren’t enough for some. If your strict diet and workout regimen doesn’t seem to be affecting your measurements at all, find out more about the three weight loss procedures we offer. One of them might be right for you! Contact us today so that you can start living the healthy life you deserve.