(DGIwire) — The Mayo Clinic performed a large study involving almost 16,000 people from five countries around the world. It found that people with coronary artery disease who had large waistlines were at more than twice the risk of dying. Even those with a modestly enlarged belly showed the same risk, and some of these people had a BMI in the normal range. A large belly carries a risk equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or having very high cholesterol.
Although excess visible or subcutaneous fat that lies just under the skin is a separate health concern, the dangerous “belly fat” is the visceral fat that resides in the abdominal cavity and surrounds the internal organs. This fat actually makes up a large proportion of the waist measurement. Visceral fat is more metabolically active and can produce hormones and other substances that have a negative impact on one’s health, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar. Any one of these will increase the risk of serious health problems that include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke; Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, some types of cancer and sleep apnea.
Measuring the waist-to-hip ratio is the more precise method of assessing risk, but a simple waist measurement alone is a good indicator. BMI is not a good measurement because many people with readings in the normal range still have dangerous levels of (hidden) visceral fat. BMI is just a measure of weight in proportion to height. What seems more important is how the fat is distributed on the body. All it takes is a tape measure and one minute of a physician’s time to measure the perimeter of a patients waist and hip, according to the Mayo Clinic study’s lead author, Dr. Thais Coutinho.
Even if one is not overweight, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more is an indication of excess abdominal fat and puts one at increased risk. There is adequate research that a waist measurement of more than 33 inches, regardless of one’s weight, will increase many different health risks.
“Improper diet and lack of activity result in a loss of lean body mass, along with an increase in both visceral and subcutaneous fat,” say boomer generation health experts Dian Griesel, Ph.D., and Tom Griesel, authors of the books TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (April 2011, BSH) and The TurboCharged Mind (January 2012, BSH).
“Too much stress will result in a release of the hormone cortisol, which causes the liver to produce excess sugar,” adds Tom. “This excess sugar will make us feel hungry, so we might eat more, and therefore experience fat gain. A diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, meats and fish along with increased activity, especially walking, will result in a quick reduction in visceral fat as well as unsightly subcutaneous fat and do wonders for our overall health and risk of serious disease.”
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