Dig out the measuring tape and discover if your waist size warns of potential health risks. A 2018 study reported by the American Heart Association says body fat stored in and around the abdomen is considered a better predictor of heart attacks than BMI, especially in women.
The type of fat that lies deep inside your abdomen and surrounds your internal organs is known as visceral fat. While too much of any type of fat is bad for your health, excess visceral fat could put you at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal cholesterol, breathing problems, and even Alzheimer’s. This may be because visceral fat produces inflammatory chemicals and hormones that can heighten our cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood clotting, and blood pressure.
Recommended: A Waist No Larger Than 35 Inches?
What waist size signals you may be in danger? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, women with waists measuring more than 35 inches are at higher risk for health problems. But according to the 2018 AHA study, it’s not enough just to assess a person’s risk factors by the circumference of their waist. Instead, the focus should be on their waist-to-hip ratio. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
Your genes may dictate whether you have a predisposition to carry weight around your middle. The calories you eat during the day and burn off through exercising are also contributors in deciding how much fat you carry, but there’s another factor: age.
Many women see an increase in belly fat as they get older – even if they aren’t gaining weight. The culprit may be a decrease in estrogen, which appears to influence where fat is distributed in the body. After menopause, body fat tends to shift to the abdomen. Muscle mass also diminishes with age, which can lower the rate at which your body burns calories. The good news is that you can take steps to reduce belly fat and limit damage to your health.
Focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean meat for protein, and stick with low-fat dairy products. Limit added sugar and saturated fat, which is found in high-fat dairy products such as cheese and butter. Instead, choose fish, nuts, and certain vegetable oils that contain moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Cut Back on Drinking Alcohol
Alcoholic drinks often contain additional sugar, which can contribute to weight gain. It also can make you eat more, that’s what we call the “drunk munchies”!
Keep an Eye on Portion Sizes
Even with healthy choices, calories add up. Reduce your portion sizes when you eat at home. In restaurants, eat half your meal, and take the rest home for a second serving tomorrow.
Replace Sugary Beverages
Drink water or beverages with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar-laden sodas.
Make physical activity part of your daily routine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity for most healthy adults. This could include brisk or moderate walking for at least 150 minutes a week. Or take part in vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, for at least 75 minutes a week.
Along with numerous other health benefits, quitting smoking can reduce the risks from excess fat around the abdomen.
Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep
Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can influence your appetite and cause you to eat more. Try stress-relieving tactics and gentle exercise like yoga.