It’s not news that being overweight increase our risk of heart disease, but did you know that fat in some places is worse than in others? There is an overwhelming increase in risk for disease with excess visceral fat, or belly fat. Visceral fat is the fat that is located inside the abdomen and gives people an “apple-shaped” body. For many people, the waist is often the first place excess fat goes. Unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest areas on our bodies to lose weight. Visceral fat not only affects your heart, but is also a big risk factor in other chronic diseases like diabetes and can even bring on stroke.
It's been accepted that people with increased abdominal fat are at a higher risk of developing heart problems, but all body fat, regardless of location, has the potential to increase the risk of heart disease. While body fat and fat location are important risk factors, it is much more imperative to consider a patient’s cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and history of diabetes when assessing their potential for heart disease. Simply put, it is important to examine the entirety of the patient’s medical history, not just body fat location. This principle also applies to prostate cancer using a single measurement as an overall indicator of a person's health is not an adequate way of making a diagnosis.
This all ties into something else that I stress: the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Being overweight is linked to so many diseases, including the development of cancer that it is in everyone's best interest to put in the effort to take care of themselves and make valuable changes in their lifestyle. For many people simply losing the excess weight can lower their risks of high blood pressure and diabetes, and in turn lower their risk of heart disease. Eating a healthier assortment of foods can also lower cholesterol. Our bodies are complex systems, and all of these diseases are interconnected; if we make an effort to address one problem it will decrease the risks of others.
If you are unsure about the best way to address being overweight, start by talking to your primary doctor. They can provide you with numerous resources to help you make healthier food and exercise choices. Initially this may seem like a daunting task, however these lifestyle changes will become second nature with time and will have profound effects on your health for the rest of your life.