If your waist measures more than 88 cm, you have a problem

Having a prominent belly is equivalent to an increased risk of myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, diabetes and other minor ailments, such as insomnia

If you want to know if you have overweight, get off the scale. That data is secondary. Better take a tape measure, measure the perimeter of your waist and remember the figure well. And now face reality: if you exceed 88 centimeters (in the case of women) or 102 centimeters (for men), you must assume that you have a problem. Abdominal obesity is a source of remarkable health risks. And now you can go to the scale to find out if you are overweight. If yes, you should start immediately with a healthy diet and exercise. Below are the dangers of excess fat located around the waist and the formula to reduce it.

The dangers of excess fat located around the waist are not few. Having a prominent belly is equivalent to an increased risk of myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, diabetes and other minor ailments, such as erectile dysfunction or insomnia, according to the Harvard Medical School (USA). And the Study of Nutrition and Cardiovascular Risk in Spain (Enrica) indicates that in this situation 32% of men and 40% of women are found. They are not few.

The figures (88 centimeters in the case of women or 102 centimeters for men) are the border between evil and good. But it is advisable to be alert a little before. 82 cm in women and 95 cm in men are already considered risk areas. "It is known with certainty that visceral fat, which surrounds organs, is not an inert fat, on the contrary, it is able to produce metabolic changes and modify the lipid profile, so that they increase cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as the possibilities of thrombosis, "explains Dr. Paola Beltrán Troncoso, member of the vascular risk and cardiac rehabilitation section of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC).

Gain weight, when to start worrying?

"Central obesity also increases blood pressure and causes insulin resistance, so there is an increased risk of diabetes," she adds. Numerous studies consolidate this idea. The prestigious Heart magazine published an investigation of 2015 (in which almost 15,000 people participated for 12 years) that concluded that people with an excessive waist circumference suffer twice as much risk of suffering sudden death. And that study mentioned another interesting and very precise parameter: the waist / hip index, that is, the result of dividing the abdominal perimeter by the perimeter of the hip. Above 0.8 in women and 0.95 in men, there is already talk of central obesity.

Is the body mass index (BMI) reliable?

For that reason, experts have recently questioned the body mass index (BMI), the result of dividing a person's weight in kilos by the square of their height in meters. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that, with an index lower than 25, one can be considered healthy and without risks associated with weight. But this idea is highly questioned. "This is an error, because the BMI does not tell you anything about the distribution of fat, a much more relevant issue for cardiovascular risk," says Paola Beltrán.

Actually, there is a high number of people considered thin because of their BMI, but with an excessive abdominal perimeter. "If they have this distribution of fat, they should stay alert, they could be said to be metabolically ill," says the doctor. Even though your blood pressure and cholesterol or triglyceride levels are adequate? Indeed. "The concept of the metabolically healthy obese is also under discussion, and in the long run, abdominal fat will put him at risk of cardiovascular disease," adds the SEC expert.

The cutoff data established by the US National Institute of Health (those 88 and 102 centimeters) are "reference values ​​independent of age and valid only for the Caucasian population." For Asian people, lower figures are used, since they are individuals smaller, "says Paola Beltrán, who highlights specific problems associated with excess fat in the waist as, for example, a higher risk of suffering a stroke or worse functioning of blood vessels, as confirmed by an investigation by Johns Hopkins University (USA). In it, 30 overweight men and women underwent a low-carbohydrate diet; another 30 reduced the intake of saturated fats. After the study, it was found that blood flow had improved in participants who had reduced their abdominal fat. This is one of the key points, in fact: how hard it is to eliminate concentrated fat in the gut.

Abdominal fat: almost an organ with a life of its own

What must be done to make the love handles disappear? "It is true that there is this difficulty: when this pattern is established [central obesity], the installed fat is more complicated to reduce because it behaves like a paracrine organ [it binds or affects neighboring cells], one could almost say that with personality own ", summarizes Paola Beltrán. Do not lose hope, in any case, because the solution is known: healthy food and exercise.

The ideal is to take the Mediterranean diet as a reference: proteins must come from legumes and fish, and carbohydrates, from fruit, vegetables and whole grains. The main fat must be olive oil (no industrial pastries), and red meat should not be abused.

In addition, to the adequate food the exercise must be added, necessarily. "To reduce abdominal fat we have to combine muscle work with aerobic exercise, of moderate intensity but for a long time, and not to decay: it is a matter that has nothing to do with aesthetics, but with health" concludes cardiologist Beltrán.

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