For Optimal Health, Look at Fat, not Weight

For many years now, there have been strong recommendations (and societal norms) related to weight. What is healthy? What is healthy for a man versus a woman? How do we manage the “natural” weight gain that occurs with age? These are all questions that people have even in light of mounting data. In fact, it may be the mountain of data that creates confusion related to body weight, body fat, and general health. We want to break it down into simpler terms.

The Problem With Weight

When the body holds too much fat, it is not able to respond to insulin as it should. This means spikes and drops in blood sugar. More body fat means more bad cholesterol (LDL) and less good cholesterol (HDL). It means an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, fatty liver, osteoarthritis, cancer, high blood pressure, and even depression. These health conditions may overlap, and they may be very serious. No wonder we want to know how much we should weigh. The issue is, weight isn’t the main issue, fat is.

The New Measure

It used to be common to look only at an overall weight. Obesity is named as a precursor to many of the diseases mentioned above. However, what obesity means may be different than originally thought. What the medical profession looks at today is BMI, or body mass index. This measurement extends beyond weight to assess how much of that weight is fat versus muscle and skeletal structure.

BMI is good. However, it is not foolproof. That is because BMI does not differentiate fat from fat.  There is such a thing as good fat, according to research. Likewise, there is such a thing as bad fat – really bad fat. What most doctors want to measure today is abdominal fat. While scientists have yet to discover just why abdominal fat is so dangerous to overall health, there are clues for us to follow.

We know that visceral fat, the fatty tissue that is located deep within the abdominal cavity, is harmful to internal organs due to proximity. Not only does fat surround vital organs, but it may constrict around them at some point. Studies also show that abdominal fat increases the stress response in the body, which leads to higher blood sugar and blood pressure, which increases cardiac risk.

There are several avenues for measuring abdominal fat, including taking your waist circumference. However, the best way to gain accurate data is to speak with your family physician. With adequate screening, it is possible to understand your starting point, where you need to go regarding health, and how to get there.

Do you have questions about heart health? We are here to assist you. Call 516-437-5600.

Posted in: Heart Health

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