Most of us know that being overweight isn’t good for our health. Because 2/3 of our population these days, including a huge number of children, is overweight, we’re hearing over and over about all the health risks.
But a 2009 study published in the _American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine _ found that having your excess weight concentrated in your abdominal region, commonly referred to as belly fat, can lower your respiratory function.
How Excess Belly Fat Affects Your Lungs
First of all, the more you weigh, the harder your lungs have to work when you move around. Think about how you feel when you carry something heavy. It’s the same for the weight you carry around as fat. More oxygen is needed because of all the excess tissue, so the heart has to work harder to move it around.
But also, the fat in your abdomen has the following effects:
When the fat presses on your chest wall, there is less room for your lungs to expand.
When it pushes up on your diaphragm, the diaphragm can’t move up and down as easily when you inhale and exhale.
Excess fat can increase your risk for asthma, further complicating lung function.
The study that I mentioned above was done with 120,000 otherwise healthy adults. That is, they did not have COPD. But those men and women who had excessive belly fat had much more trouble breathing than their thinner counterparts.
What’s considered excessive? …A 35-inch waist for women and a 40-inch waist for men.
So, What Should You Do If You Are Already Overweight?
You might be thinking that if you already have excess belly fat and you already have been diagnosed with COPD, then what can you really do? Well, here are the facts…
You can’t do anything to reverse the course of your COPD or to cure it. But you can, and should lose weight, because it will make you healthier overall, and that can help you live longer and have a better quality of life too.
Losing weight, even just 5 to 10 pounds, is possible simply by making healthy eating choices and by exercising for 30 minutes or so a day. The exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. Even walking around your house or out to the mailbox can make a difference.
Exercise can also have the following positive benefits:
- Strengthens your heart and respiratory muscles
- Makes it easier to deal with shortness of breath
- Makes it easier for you to perform your daily living tasks, such as dressing and meal preparation
- Lightens your mood and improves your outlook on life
- Helps you sleep better
So, if you are carrying excessive fat around your middle, then start taking steps–even if they are small ones–towards losing weight and getting more active. Before you know it, you will be breathing a bit easier and feeling better all round.
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.