For people with heart disease, the risk of death rises if they also have belly fat - even if they are of normal weight- compared to people whose fat is mostly elsewhere in the body.
A new study, published in the May 10 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, supports that notion that the "apple" body type could be as significant a risk factor as smoking or high cholesterol, with higher risk for men. And that "muffin top" or "spare tire" is even more significant than one's overall body mass index (BMI) in predicting the risk of death for those with cardiovascular disease.
BMI is an imprecise and imperfect measurement of one's weight related to height. It can overestimate excess weight in very muscular individuals and underestimate it in the elderly or those who have lost lean tissue.
This study tells us that relying on the BMI, or even how much excess weight is on the body, may well be the secondary issue. What may be more important is how the fat is distributed on the body.
The study included data from five studies, involving nearly 16,000 people with heart disease. The researchers found a nearly doubled risk of death for people with coronary artery disease and central obesity, as measured by waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio.
Visceral fat, the kind deep within the belly as opposed to the squishy superficial fat, has been found to be more metabolically active. It has been linked to greater changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose. This could all play into the higher mortality rates seen.
Sold on the idea of whittling your waist? Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Know your numbers-not your BMI but your waist circumference and your hip-waist ratio. And set goals for what you want your numbers to be.
2. Work on core strength. There are layers of muscles in your abdomen and lower back that make up your core. Standard crunches usually don't get at them all. Exercises that can more effectively target these muscles and tighten the torso include Pilates and yoga. Or try a Fitball or Bosu class.
3. While you're at it, lower your cortisol. Cortisol, a stress hormone, has been implicated in increased visceral fat. Ways to lower your cortisol include getting enough quality seep and making stress reduction and management a part of your daily routine.
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn't mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers' eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders' insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.
Published On: May 24, 2011