Are you carrying around too much belly fat? If so, you may have more to worry about than just your vanity.
Belly fat — also known as visceral fat — attaches to the organs inside your abdomen and is a particularly dangerous form of fat. It can put you in a constant state of inflammation and send your immune system into chronic overdrive. That’s because belly fat is filled with inflammatory chemicals that can destroy healthy cells and tissues. It is a major characteristic of metabolic syndrome and it can lead to type 2 diabetes. Having a large belly also raises your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Visceral fat is different from the subcutaneous fat that accumulates under our skin, often on our hips, thighs, and buttocks and as the “pinch an inch” variety known as love handles. Excess visceral fat gives people an “apple” appearance, whereas subcutaneous fat results in the “pear” shape.
Believe it or not, belly fat once served as a survival mechanism. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on it to keep them alive during times of famine. It fueled their bodies and kept them running until they could find food. Like our early ancestors, we’re still storing excess calories as fat in our bellies, but today there is no famine! Furthermore, thanks to our fast-food, sedentary lifestyle our waistlines just keep getting bigger and bigger. Today two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and more than 34 percent have metabolic syndrome (this includes more than 40 percent of those over age 40 and more than 50 percent of those over age 60)!
How do you know if you’re carrying too much belly fat? Measure your waist. If you’re a woman and your waist circumference is 35 inches or more or if you’re a man and your waist circumference is 40 inches, then you need to start taking your belly fat seriously and do something about it. While these numbers are just guidelines and your health risks can vary with height and body type, too much belly fat can kill you. The good news is that adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep can all help burn off this dangerous type of fat, reduce inflammation, and potentially prevent a host of obesity-related ailments.
To learn more about the importance of reducing belly fat and how to improve the quality of your life and health, check out Dr Agatston's new book The South Beach Wake-Up Call.