With an increase in prevalence of obesity, you can look around and observe that not everyone carries their excess weight in the same place. Most pre-menopausal women carry their excess fat in their hips and thighs. Men and post menopausal women carry their excess body in the mid section. We all know that excess body fat increases your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. However, the extent of your risk is a tape measurer away!
Not all body fat behaves the same way. The best behaved body fat is the fat in your hips and thighs. So, if your body shape is more pear shaped, your body fat is less toxic.
If your excess body fat is around your belly, you have an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, some studies suggest there is an increased risk of high blood pressure and liver disease with more belly fat. It is now estimated that fatty infiltration of the liver with inflammation can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Estimates vary but according to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2-5% of Americans have NASH with another 10-20% having fatty liver without inflammation. A simple at home measurement can help establish your personal disease risk and also provide some valuable information to share with your doctor.
So, behind closed doors, get out your tape measure and measure your waist circumference. You should measure your tummy right below the belly button. According to the National Institutes of Health, you are in the danger zone if, as a man, your waist circumference is greater than 40 inches. For women, your disease risk increases with a waist measurement of greater than 35 inches. Although these measurement numbers are for adults, recent research suggests that belly fat in children and teens can increase their risk of heart disease and diabetes. At this time, no universal numbers exist for waist circumference measures in children and adolescents, so check your child’s body mass index (BMI) with your family doctor or pediatrician.
So, what can you do for belly fat? From a dietary standpoint, we recommend an improvement in and possibly a reduction of the amount of carbohydrate. Avoid sweet drinks which include sweet tea, lemonade, sweetened coffee drinks, alcoholic beverages made with sweet mixers and, of course, regular sugared soft drinks. Choose 100% whole grains and more fruits and vegetables. As always, a reduction in total calories is mandatory in order to lose weight.
Exercise is especially beneficial. The bulk of the evidence suggests high-intensity exercise is particularly helpful in reducing abdominal fat. In the STRRIDE study, researchers examined the effect of exercise intensity and abdominal fat reduction. The group who exercised at the higher intensity lost the most abdominal fat. However, even moderate intensity exercise caused a reduction in body fat. Those not exercising at all continued to add belly fat. Stay tuned for more information on high intensity exercise!
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