Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease, but there's more to worry about than your overall weight. Where you carry the weight makes a dramatic difference.
People with excess belly fat have a much higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those who carry the weight in their hips and thighs or evenly distributed over their body.
Our team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute is dedicated to helping you prevent heart disease. We offer risk assessments, including evaluating belly fat and determining its potential impact on your health, and then we create a care plan to keep your heart healthy
Some of your belly fat, called subcutaneous fat, lies just beneath your skin. As you gain weight and more fat accumulates in your belly, you develop another type called visceral fat.
Visceral belly fat poses a unique danger to your health. This fat goes deep into your abdomen, wrapping around organs such as your heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and intestines.
Your visceral fat contains many different cells. Some cells store fat, while others release active substances that cause inflammation.
Inflammation travels throughout your body, contributing to conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood lipids (cholesterol and other fats), and Type 2 diabetes.
Visceral fat also has a direct impact because it surrounds your heart and blood vessels. As a result, its inflammatory substances accelerate diseases like atherosclerosis (fatty plaque in your arteries).
The fat around your heart (pericardial fat) easily sends substances into your coronary blood vessels, raising your chances of developing coronary artery disease. Too much pericardial fat also significantly increases your risk of developing heart failure and atrial fibrillation.
Additionally, visceral fat puts you at a much higher risk of having a heart attack. Women who carry excessive belly fat have a 10-20% higher risk than women who are overweight but don't have abdominal fat.
You need diagnostic imaging to determine the exact amount of visceral fat in your body. But you don't need to go to that extreme. You only need to measure your waist.
If your waist is more than 40 inches for men, or larger than 35 inches for women, it's a sure sign you have a belly fat problem.
You can also compare your waist to your hip (waist-to-hip ratio). After measuring the smallest part of your waist and the widest area of your hips, divide your waist circumference by your hip.
For example, if your waist is 40 inches and your hips are 50 inches, then you calculate 40 divided by 50. If the answer is 1.0 or higher, you have enough belly fat to be concerned about your heart health.
Reducing belly fat begins with the basic lifestyle factors you would follow for any weight-loss regimen. You need to limit your calories and eat a healthy meal plan that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, lean meats, poultry, and fish.
It's also important to get regular exercise. However, if you're at risk for heart disease, consult with us first so we can help you choose an activity that's safe for your heart.
Here are a few additional tips that will boost your weight loss:
It also helps to track your food intake and exercise, which doesn’t need to be cumbersome if you use a free app. Having a record allows you to see when you overeat and holds you accountable by revealing your calorie intake.
If you have any questions about your risk for heart disease, call our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or book an appointment online today.