Potbelly, beer belly, spare tyre, middle-aged spread or the paunch – regardless of what it may be called, belly fat is not just a problem because it looks bad. In fact, having lots of fat in the abdominal area is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Clinical nurse specialist Kay Greveson spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk to reveal everything we need to know about belly fat and what dangers it poses.
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Belly fat is usually estimated by measuring the circumference around a person’s waist.
If a person has a lot of excess fat around their waistline then the correct steps to get rid of it, even if they’re not very heavy overall, need to be taken.
Regardless of one’s overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat puts a person at risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and even premature death from any cause.
When asked why some people are more prone to the a protruding belly, Kay said: “There are different types of fat in the body.
“Subcutaneous fat is the punchable fat that lies just under the skin, over the muscle and is often found on the arms, buttocks and thighs.
“It keeps the body warm but also stores calories. Visceral fat is much deeper and sits mainly in the abdomen around he organs such as the liver.
“There are more reasons to get visceral fat that overeating. It could be genetic therefore knowing the medical history of your parents will help to see if you are at risk.
“Conditions such as insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver can all be responsible to visceral fat.
“In women, abdominal fat can increase with age. This is mainly down to decreasing level of oestrogen, which can influence where fat is distributed in the body.
“Studies have also shown that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat and have higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.”
On the topic of how one could reduce their belly fat, Kay said: “Visceral fat responds well to exercise that increases the heart rate.”
Four exercises she recommends are running, biking, rowing and swimming.
“If you have a stressful life this could contribute to abdominal fat, therefore tackling the source of stress and trying approaches such as mindfulness or just taking some time out for yourself could help.
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Asked about other serious medical conditions that could ensue from having too much belly fat, Kay added: “Fat doesn’t just store calories but also releases a hormone called Adiponectin, which makes the liver and muscles sensitive to the hormone insulin, in the process making us less susceptible to some diseases.
“When people become overweight and have excess fat stores, the production of adiponectin reduces, which can then make people more prone to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
“Your waist circumference is a good indicator of visceral fat, with larger measurements meaning the probability of visceral fat and therefore increased risk of health conditions such as diabetes.
“Men should have a waist measurement of less than 40 inches (102 cm) and women should have a WC of less than 35 inches (89 cm).
“Currently the only way to see if a person has visceral fat is by a CT scan or MRI scan.
“This obviously cannot be done on everyone but is usually indicated if someone suffer from symptoms such as raised liver function blood tests, which may be an indicator of visceral fat around the liver (Known as fatty liver disease).”
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