Being overweight or obese has been a known risk factor for heart disease for some time, but now it’s being shown that it’s not only how much you weigh that can raise your risk, it’s also where you carry your weight. The American Heart Association recently released a study showing that women with certain body types, most notably those who carry their extra weight around their waist, are at a higher risk for developing heart disease than their counterparts who carry their weight elsewhere. It’s not even the actual number on the scale that can make that difference. Even women who maintain a particular weight but find it being distributed differently as they age can see their risk rise.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a disorder in the blood vessels of the heart that often leads to heart attacks. There are several risk factors that lead to developing heart disease. While both men and women can suffer from heart disease, and while it is a leading cause of death in both sexes, risk factors and presentation of the disease vary greatly between men and women.
Risk factors for heart disease in both men and women include a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight or physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet, or being older than 55.
Why Does My Weight Distribution Matter?
The study published by the American Heart Association followed more than 500,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 69. The researchers tracked changes in measurements of body mass index (BMI), waist to hip ratio, and waist circumference. They showed an increased risk of heart disease that went up at the same rate as the rise in waist to hip ratio. Overall, they showed that the risk of heart attacks in women rose by 50% when the waist to hip ratio went up by .09. For men, that risk rose by 36%. Perhaps even more importantly, the larger waist to hip ratio showed a 10 to 20% higher risk than only having a high BMI.
What Makes The Difference With Belly Fat?
Not all fat is created equal. The fat that you find around your hips and thighs is called subcutaneous fat, which is found just below the skin. On the contrary, the fat found around your belly is called visceral fat and is actually located around vital organs. This fat can affect those organs, like your liver and pancreas, which can cause changes in your metabolism. Due to hormonal changes in women, especially later in life, that visceral fat becomes more common and more of a part of your physique.
If you’re looking for ways to get rid of some of the fat that has settled around your midsection, there are a few things you can do to lose it. Eating three or more servings a day of whole grains have been shown to lower rates of belly fat, as have consuming poly or monounsaturated fats, while avoiding too many saturated fats. These “good fats” can be found in nuts, fish, and vegetable oils. You should also get out and exercise regularly, which can also help with your overall health and well being.