We all know that carrying extra pounds can impact your health. But where you carry those extra pounds is a bigger factor than the pounds themselves. We’ve been hearing a lot in health news lately about how having “belly fat” is a much greater health risk than just being overweight.

We all know that carrying extra pounds can impact your health. But where you carry those extra pounds is a bigger factor than the pounds themselves. We’ve been hearing a lot in health news lately about how having “belly fat” is a much greater health risk than just being overweight.

Research has shown excess belly fat leads to an increased risk of heart disease (including stroke), diabetes and breast cancer. But a study published in the November 2008 issue of New England Journal of Medicine had even more startling news. Researchers found that people with the most belly fat had about double the risk of an early death than people with the least amount of belly fat. It was true whether the participants were actually overweight or not.

Researchers say belly fat is worse because the fat cells are active-they produce hormones that can influence metabolic function. They can affect insulin resistance, increase estrogen levels and inflammation. Some research has shown these active cells also produce a hunger stimulating hormone, creating a vicious cycle.

You don’t need an expensive medical test to determine whether you’re carrying too much fat around your middle. You can check yourself. All you need is a tape measure.

 Put the tape measure around your midsection at your navel. A waistline of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is considered harmful.

This waist measurement is one indicator of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is not just one thing; it involves a number of risk factors that increases your chances of developing serious health problems.



Metabolic syndrome risk factors

Waistline measurement (40 inches for men/35 for women) Triglyceride levels of 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or above, or taking medication to treat high triglycerides  HDL or “good” cholesterol level below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50 mg/dL for women, or taking medication for low HDL levels Blood pressure levels of 130/80 or above, or taking medication for elevated plod pressure levels Fasting blood glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or above, or taking medication for elevated blood glucose levels.


While it’s possible to have just one of these risk factors if you have one-particularly a larger waist-you’ll likely have others. Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of any three of the mentioned risk factors and the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing serious health issues.

It’s estimated that metabolic syndrome affects one in five people. In fact, some studies indicated that 25 percent of the U.S. population may have it. And it becomes more prevalent as people age.

But losing belly fat will likely lower triglycerides levels, blood pressure levels and blood glucose levels while increasing HDL (or good) cholesterol levels. It takes a combination of diet and exercise.

Simple steps such as eating less processed food and more fruits and vegetables and combining aerobic and strength training in your exercise program will get you off to a good start.