Belly Fat, a Risk Factor for Heart Health?

Belly Fat, a Risk Factor for Heart Health?

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 27 Sep 2016 - 14:30


Did you know that your growing waistline is a growing health risk too? According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology the hidden fat (visceral fat) in the mid-section area or the abdomen is associated with newly identified serious risk factor for heart disease.  Regardless of your overall weight (BMI), and waist circumference (normally used to assess your health index), having a large amount of belly fat increases your cardiovascular risk.

This study affirms the previous studies that fat deposits in specific regions are harmful and the density of the stomach fat is equally important to the amount of fat you have in your body. It means that the higher the fat content the lower the fat density that shows in the CT image.

Earlier studies indicated that people with excess abdominal fat around their midsection face a higher risk of heart disease as compared to people who have fat elsewhere.

"What's really interesting is that we show that an increase in the amount of stomach fat and a lower density fat is associated with worse heart disease risk factors -- even after accounting for how much weight was gained," said Caroline Fox, the study's senior researcher and former senior investigator for the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

She adds, "Measuring fat density is a new measure that we are still working to understand and warrants further investigation. We used it as an indirect measure of fat quality and found that lower numbers were linked to greater heart disease risk."

The Study: Over a six-year study period, Fox and her team reviewed CT scans of 1,106 participants (average age of 45 years with 44 percent women) from the Framingham Heart Study, to assess how much abdominal fat had accumulated, its location and it's density to understand the link between anatomical changes in belly fat in terms of volume and density -- and the changes in a range of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Researchers measured both subcutaneous adipose fat (the visible fat just under the skin), seen as a flab, and visceral adipose fat *the fat inside the abdominal cavity).

The Findings: It was observed that participants had a 22 percent increase in fat just under the skin and a 45 percent increase in fat inside the abdominal cavity over the six-year follow-up period.

Although the increase in both types of fat were linked to new and worsening cardiovascular disease risk factors, individuals with visceral fat in the abdomen cavity showed substantial increases in metabolic risk factors including high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low HDL, or good cholesterol, as compared to those with subcutaneous fat, just under the skin.

Fox said that abdominal cavity fat is thought to be more dangerous. They also observed that those with greater increases in fat volume and more decreases in fat density had relatively higher incidence of heart disease risk factors.

Caution: While age also plays a role with muscle loss (especially if you are physically inactive) your weight is largely determined by how you balance the calories you eat with the energy you burn. Eating excessively and exercising too little leads to packing of excess weight including belly fat.

Loss of muscle mass with age, decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.



Reference:  Journal of the American College of Cardiology - Association of Changes in Abdominal Fat Quantity and Quality With Incident Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

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