Belly Fat - Hidden Dangers Lurking in Your Gut
Belly fat is one of the easiest places to gain weight in your 30's, 40's, and even your 50's. Unfortunately, it's a red flag warning for heart disease, type II diabetes, and cancer. According to the latest studies, it also puts you at a higher risk for Alzheimers.
Although there have been numerous studies about midsection fat, experts are not exactly sure why people with large abdomens and waist lines are such frequent targets for disease. However, the one thing they do agree on, is that it's dangerous to have.
It IS known that fat cells actually regulate metabolic functions. Many experts believe fat cells in the belly release especially large amounts of fatty acids, which have a negative impact on a person's blood sugar and insulin metabolism.
Belly Fat and Insulin Resistance
There is one thing that’s certain. People with potbellies tend to lose sensitivity to insulin, a crucial hormone that helps the body burn energy. When insulin loses its power, the body responds by making more of the hormone, which only throws the system further off balance.
As a result, people with extra fat hanging onto their belly are vulnerable to a whole cascade of problems known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome or Metabolic Syndrome. The syndrome, which affects an estimated 70 million to 80 million Americans, comes with an array of potential complications.
People living with insulin resistance tend to develop type II diabetes. This is often accompanied by high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol, which is a 'perfect storm' for heart disease!
‘Love handles’ are composed of fat near the surface of the skin and not considered to be dangerous. It's the visceral fat that wraps around organs deeper in the abdomen that appear to be the most metabolically active and dangerous to your health.
Take Measure of Belly Fat
Finding out if you have a potentially unhealthy amount of belly fat isn’t hard to do. All you’ll need is a tape measure. To measure your midsection, exhale, relax, and wrap the measure around your waist. The bottom of the tape should be even with the top of your hip bones bilaterally. Keep the tape straight and snug, but not so it cuts into the skin. A man's waist circumference should be less than 39" and a woman's waist measurements should be less than 34.5". Anything above these figures, puts you at a higher risk and means you're likely to have trouble with insulin resistance.
According to a 2005 report in the British Medical Journal, the size of your waist may say more about your health than other common measures of obesity, including body mass index (BMI) or waist-to-hip ratio. For most people, the number on the scale tells the whole story. Statistically, almost everyone with a BMI over 30, has a large waist circumference too. Even the small number of people with healthy BMIs and large waists still seem to be targets for disease.
Notice Your Body Shape
In general, your body shape is a direct reflection of both your genes and your lifestyle. People put on fat in different ways and places because we’re all unique to some extent. Some people naturally carry weight in their midsection (Apple shape) while others carry weight around hips, buttocks, and thighs. (Pear shape).
Young women often gain weight in their thighs and buttocks, while men are more likely to pack extra weight on their bellies. This may be one reason why men in there 30's and 40's are much more likely than women of the same age to suffer from heart disease. Once women reach menopausal years though, they tend to start spreading out in the midsection too. Unfortunately, this is also the time when the risk of heart disease for women, catches up with a man's risk of heart disease.
What Encourages Belly Fat?
Whatever your age or gender, sitting in front of TV’s or computers and consuming preservative laden fast foods goes right to your midsection.
A 2005 study by researchers at Duke University suggested that lack of exercise is an especially large contributor to having midsection fat. They found that just eight months of inactivity increased visceral belly fat, (the potentially dangerous layer of fat) by about 9 percent. However, people who exercised regularly over the same eight month period, reduced their visceral fat by about 8 percent.
A sedentary lifestyle (AKA: being a couch potato) is not the only cause of midsection fat. Studies report that high levels of stress encourage the accumulation of belly fat too. When the body is under stress
, it produces high levels of the hormone Cortisol, which causes your body to be on high alert.
Heart rates increase, blood sugar levels increase, and lowered immunity are the result of high cortisol levels. Fat cells help to break down heavy amounts of cortisol in the body as a defense mechanism against stress.
Excessive Belly Fat is a Red Flag Warning
A bulge in the belly should raise a red flag for you. If you can trim down your midsection, you'll help prevent health problems associated with a potbelly. A healthier lifestyle can stave off fat from forming midsection. When you lose weight, your body will make getting rid of visceral fat a top priority.
If you can manage to lose just 5 to 10 percent of your overall body weight, you’ll reduce the dangerous layer of belly fat by as much as 30 percent. If high stress is causing your buildup of belly fat, incorporating some relaxation techniques in your daily routine, may be a good idea.
Will Liposuction Help Reduce Belly Fat?
Unfortunately, if you're concerned about the amount of fat you have, liposuction does not seem to help. In a 2004 study, a group of women who had about 30 percent of their body fat suctioned off, didn't avoid diabetes or heart disease. Specifically, the procedure didn't lower blood pressure or improve insulin response either.
Although billions of of fat cells were removed from the women, it didn’t change the size of the fat cells that remained. It's possible that it's the size of fat cells, not their sheer number, that really has an impact on health.
Best Approach to Reduce Belly Fat
If you're ready to banish your excess belly fat
, do something about it. The most successful approach is to combine a healthy, low-calorie diet
(that's low in trans fats and excess sugars) with regular exercise. Exercise alone can be enough to trim belly fat. If you can’t seem to get exercise into your schedule, at least eat healthier foods. You’ll still at least lose some of the dangerous midsection fat you have.
A six pack stomach may not be within your reach, but living a healthier lifestyle certainly can be. You may also consider cleansing your body of toxic substances that contribute to abdominal fat.
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