Is your waistline making you sick?
Once upon a time, people used to think that having a well rounded midsection was a thing of pride; an evidence of good living. Back then, new brides would make it a point of duty to fatten up their husbands’ bellies because that was a sign that she was taking good care of her spouse. There were also stories of men that would drink 4-5 bottles of beer on most days of the week to enable them expand their midsection, because a big belly was a sign of wealth. Thankfully, things are changing for the better and we are slowly replacing these archaic mindsets with healthier ones, thanks to more awareness and health education. Nowadays, most people are well aware that carrying extra weight isn’t good for your health.
Most of us know that being overweight or obese poses a greater risk of disease, but did you know that stocking excess fat in one specific part of the body seems to be more harmful than fat stored in other parts of the body? Yes! Recent studies have shown that carrying most of your excess weight around your midsection is associated with greater health consequences, than storing extra pounds on the hips and thighs. That is to say that when it comes to reducing risk factors or disease prevention, having a pear shaped body is more preferred than an apple shaped body.
What could be the reason for this? All our bodies have some fat, and the fat that lies just beneath the skin is called the subcutaneous fat. There is another layer of fat that sits even further below the skin’s surface. This deeper abdominal fat also known as the visceral fat surrounds the body’s organs making it difficult for the organs to function optimally. The visceral fat is supplied by the portal blood system, therefore, excess fat in this area can lead to the release of fatty deposits into the bloodstream. Fatty buildup in the blood is responsible for the majority of negative health consequences associated with obesity. Visceral fat produces substances that can make it harder for the body to use insulin well (insulin resistance), raise blood pressure, and negatively impact cholesterol levels. All of this can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis , endometrial cancer, and other serious health problems.
How Do You Know If You Are at Risk? It’s Simple. Get a measuring tape and measure your midsection. You can measure the waist circumference along the belly button (navel). The target waistline for women should be 32 inches or less, while for men it should be 37 inches or less. Ladies with a waist the circumference of over 35 and men with waist sizes over 40 indicate an unhealthy concentration of fat in the abdominal region. Such people are more at risk of developing medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes etc, that is if they don’t already have such health problems.
Doctors regard this waist circumference number as one of the very important numbers used in medical practice because it is used along with body mass index (BMI) to assess for weight related health risks. The BMI calculation helps to determine how much fat is on your body. The higher the number, the higher the body fat, which is essentially obesity. Normal BMI is less than 25. Overweight (25-30), Obese (30-35) Morbidly Obese (35). A limitation of the BMI number is that it doesn’t take into consideration muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat and could increase total body weight and essentially raise BMI number. For that reason, the waist circumference is now widely preferred to assess risk factors.
What do you do if you have excessive belly fat? Did you guess liposuction of the abdominal fat? That would be the wrong answer. Though most people have resorted to just getting abdominal liposuction to take care of that abdominal adiposity, I still recommend diet and exercise. Not only is it cheaper and safer, but a body that exercises regularly is generally a healthier body. Regular exercise reduces inflammation in the cardiovascular system and allows improved blood flow to muscles and organs and prevents the formation of blood clots which may damage the heart. An ideal exercise regimen would be 40 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise such as running, walking, swimming, resistance training etc at least five times a week. A healthy nutrition also helps to reduce the amount of fat especially in the abdomen.
Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats, meat and dairy can help you maintain a steady weight. Having a good variety of these foods every day leaves less room for foods that are high in fat and sugar – a leading cause of excess abdominal fat. The problems with abdominal fat are more than skin deep. A bulging belly poses varied and serious health risks. The good news is that belly fat responds to the same healthy lifestyle habits that shed weight in general. Regular exercise and a nutritious and balanced diet can help you control your weight and especially trim your waistline.
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