Not Overweight, But Still At Risk for Heart Disease

Health Professional

Maintaining a healthy weight does not mean you are free from heart disease risk. New research indicated body fat percent plays a role.

Data published in the American Journal of Cardiology online in August, 2013, reviewed over 1500 older adults with a normal body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of how your weight relates to your height. (Calculate your BMI here.) Researchers found that one in five men and close to one in three women with a normal BMI had high body fat percentages. A high body fat percentage was defined as above 25 percent for men and above 35 percent for women.

The study found that women with high body fat percentages were at 57 percent higher risk of dying from a heart-related cause versus women with a healthy body fat. Men with excess body fat were also found to be at greater risk. Those with high levels of body fat were more likely to live with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of conditions that, when they occur together, increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Body fat percentages are not frequently used to assess health risk. BMI is more often used due to being easy and affordable to calculate. However, it's not necessarily the most accurate measure. More high-tech options are available for measuring body fat, such as a dual-energy x-ray absorption scan.

Strength training

As you age, muscle mass decreases. This makes it all the more imperative that you take action early to prevent the muscle loss.

Participation in strength building activities that work all major muscle groups is essential at least twice a week. Strength training may include lifting weights, resistance bands, push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. If you are not currently active, consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise regime. If you've never lifted weights, you may benefit from a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn the right techniques.