Holiday Art Tour – Year Two
Being Old is Time Consuming

Belly Fat

category_bug_journal2.gif According to a study released last week by the Mayo Clinic, having a pot belly, even if you are otherwise of normal weight, produces a higher risk of death than being obese.

“The risk of cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher, and the risk of death from all causes was 2.08 times higher, in people of normal weight with central obesity, compared with those with a normal body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio...

"'The high risk of death may be related to a higher visceral fat accumulation in this group, which is associated with insulin resistance and other risk factors...' says Karine Sahakyan, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiovascular research fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.”

The study involved 12,785 American adults 18 and older over 14 years. In that time, 2,562 participants died, 1138 of which were cardiovascular related.

Did you note that phrase, visceral fat in the quote just above? It turns out there are two kinds of fat. Subcutaneous is the stuff that hangs over your belt, gives you a muffin top and you can squeeze between your fingers.

Visceral fat doesn't show on the outside of our bodies. It surrounds our abdominal organs and it is the kind that is really dangerous. Here is a diagram of the two kinds of fat. (Yes, the drawing is a woman's body, but the fat surrounds internal organs the same way in men.)

Belly fat

Visceral fat is more harmful than the fat that accumulates on hips because it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several kinds of cancer.

The new finding that slim people with excess belly (visceral) fat are at greater risk doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. We are talking about beer bellies here too, my friends, and muffin tops that plague our later years.

Nowadays, obesity experts believe that the size of your waist is a better risk indicator for these conditions and diseases than BMI and it's easy to figure out at home.

The Mayo Clinic says that for most women, a waist measurement of 35 inches (89 centimeters) or more indicates an unhealthy concentration of belly fat. For most men, a waist measurement of 40 inches (102 centimeters) or more is considered cause for concern. Here is, according to the Mayo Clinic, how to measure:

Place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone.

Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you but doesn't push into your skin.

Make sure the tape measure is level all the way around.

Relax, exhale and measure your waist — no sucking in your belly!

That's the easy part, measuring. If you come up short – well, let's say wide - you know there is only one way to lose weight that works: burning more calories than you consume.

For many people that means low-calorie although I am surprised by how many (reputable) sources accept low-carbohydrate as an alternative. But that's a personal choice for each of us with, perhaps, input from our physicians.

Of course, you should be exercising too but unless you are running or biking several miles a day or pounding out an hour or more of high-impact aerobics daily, it won't make much difference to weight loss. I don't mean that let's you off the hook, only that it's better to use your exercise routine to tone, strengthen and maintain flexibility.

If you ask Dr. Google, you'll find all kinds of exercises promising to reduce belly fat. Mostly, they recommend abdominal exercises and they are wrong. Spot exercises such as situps, crunches, etc. are good for building specific muscles but they have little or no effect on fat in that area of the body or on the body's distribution of fat.

So there you are – the story of belly fat which, up until a few days ago I thought was all that excess stuff on my abdomen and waist. It's that too, but now I've learned it means visceral fat around my organs and that it is really not good for me. Big time.

I know this all seems like just one more damned thing to worry about. But it's really the same old, same old weight stuff with an important, new reason to keep up the good fight.

Useful Links:
Mayo Clinic: Belly Fat in Women
Mayo Clinic: Belly Fat in Men

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: The Associate's Rebuttal


I have it - way too much of it - and I know I don't exercise enough or eat right. There are so many other fun things to do.

I am guilty of letting too much fat settle around my middle. I don't gain weight in my arms or legs so it all accumulates in my body.

I have known for some time that the 'hidden' fat is the dangerous kind. Yet I constantly lose the good fight. I have lost 5 pounds and have reached a plateau. I feel sick if I don't eat and I do eat the right foods (Lots of fruit and fresh veggies and protein.)

Woe is me - I feel a heart attack or a stroke is in my future. Probably the latter as I just had a cardio test and came out with a clean slate.

I don't think I've commented before, so let me say first that I read you every day and find pretty much everything interesting, valuable, or entertaining, or all three.

Second: they really put one number out there for all of us of a given gender? It makes no difference if a woman is four feet eight inches or five feet eleven inches? I didn't check their site--but if so, that seems to me to verge on the irresponsible. Averages can't be simplistically applied to individuals, and they should know better.

I watch my diet but the times when I have been sedentary puts 10 pounds back on me quickly. Walking nearly every day and doing a little routine with hand weights seems to take it off again. Do I do it regularly? I start up when i have trouble reaching over my tum to get to cut my toenails, sigh.

Well then, I guess if the number is not exact for each individual's height, weight and body type, we should all just forget about belly fat and eat a pint of ice cream today. (Not to be snarky, you understand.)

Averages exist because it is not humanly possible to list every individual circumstance. I'm pretty sure that a four-foot tall woman can figure out that her number would be lower. Vice versa for tall people. Each to be modified for varieties of body type, of course.

We deal in averages in every aspect of life and it is not irresponsible or simplistic to do so. 35 or 40 gives everyone a general idea and anyone concerned that their number should be 36 or 41 can certainly consult their physician or arrange for a more exacting MRI measurement of belly fat.

Come on, folks, it's a guideline, a rule of thumb useful for giving an indication of possible concern.

Based on personal experience as well as published research data, I am absolutely convinced that the key to weight control lies in the elimination or at the very least, significant reduction in sugar consumption. About three months ago, after reading a research report on the amount of sugar each individual consumes per year (I belive it was 174 pounds) and the effects of sugar in the body (fat retention, metabolic dysfunction etc.) I decided to eliminate my personal consumption of refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup.( I had already eliminated alcohol over five years ago)
The results after three months: 13% weight loss, 34 vs. 36 inch waist and an overall sensation of higher energy and stamina.
I cringe when I see children of 10 or 1ll years old already obese carrying their supersize soft drinks out of Macdonalds or KFC. They are already probably headed for a short life span, diabetes and other health problems that could be avoided.

I sometimes disagree wit NY Mayor Bloomberg's policies but certainly, his soft drink edict "hits the spot" (Pun intended)

No body fat here.
With Sjogrens
and dry mouth and no taste.
I struggle to gain a pound.
Eat healthy but not big portions also a lot of sweets. So I will probably go with heart attack.
Stress is my big problem.
As we age
we all have some kind of issue.

This relieves me somewhat because my abdomen is tight and I have a larger amount of that outside fat. I have to reduce calories consumption and exercise more...but it will NOT make a huge difference on that.

I've had a tendency to belly fit since I was a slender 20-something, I'm sure it's genetic, just as I'm sure the family female history of congestive heart disease if genetic. So I'm stuck with that! I always question these reports because I look around at my mostly over 60 friends an see almost all have belly fat, male and female.

I read the Mayo report on women - they didn't say a thing about doing studies specifically with women; they seem to extrapolate that women are the same as men. Not! Since menopause it has been nearly impossible to lose belly fat. I think we women are predisposed to protect our bellies with a layer of fat even after we have passed the child bearing age. Have those mostly male researchers really given thought to the difference between men and women?

Sure I'd like to be slim and trim once again. But I remember that little pot below my belt that I fought with tight underwear way back when. It's not going to go away. My cholesterol is good, where does that fit into the algorithm? What aren't they looking at. What haven't they looked at? Probably the answer is women and cholesterol.

And one last thing: that headline on the AARP Magazine a couple of months ago saying belly fat is the easiest to loose was WAY off base.

I think what they are trying to measure is the fat that is around your organs. The article I read said that belly fat is not the flab that hangs over the (at least my) belt, its internal fat. The number 35 indicates that there is too much fat around your organs, not hanging over the top of your pants. The article made the point that you could actually be at your correct weight, but have too much fat internally.

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