Belly Fat & Your Heart: August 31, 2011

Jacob Green is not what you’d call fat, but admits he eats his share of fatty foods.

“My wife and I are concerned about the obesity problem but we know that processed food is easy and cheap.”

Doctors worry by cutting corners. We may be gaining weight and sacrificing our health. Dr. Brian Taschner is a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

“Actually about two-thirds of our population is overweight and obese right now.”

It’s not just how much weight, but where it accumulates. Excess belly fat is proving to be a significant indicator of your health.

“If you were to look at a patient, the apple rather than a pear shape is probably more detrimental to someone’s health than fat distributed elsewhere such as the hips,” says Dr. Taschner.

Concentrated belly fat can be as significant a risk as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or having very high blood pressure. Monitoring fat distribution can help doctors detect metabolic abnormalities and early heart disease.

“One of the thoughts is that fat accumulates around the organs in the abdomen and these free fatty acids or other toxins produced by the fat, go directly into the circulation.

Basic guidelines make for a quick, initial assessment.

“The number that we use for elevated or a high waist circumference in men and women are 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women,” says Dr. Taschner.

Research further shows, even normal weight people can be at risk, if their belly fat is too great. Jacob has checked his stomach stats.

“I’m probably borderline I guess from some of the measurements that I’ve taken.”

“We know that those numbers, as they increase, correlates so well with cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Taschner.

Simply changing your diet and adding exercise may help you slim down and shrink your risk for heart disease.