Why the size of your waist matters

If you think stepping on a scale and weighing yourself gives you the whole picture about the risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, think again! Measuring your waistline may be more important than weighing your whole self.

 Faben Getachew



For the most part people are unaware of visceral fat – or of what is commonly known as belly fat- and the great health risks associated with it. Most think that it merely poses nuisance for people who want to look good in their clothes. But the fat you carry around your waistline may be more dangerous to your health than any other fat in any other part of your body regardless of whether you are overweight or not.

What is visceral belly fat?

Visceral belly fat is one type of body fat located in the abdomen and around the abdominal organs which pushes out the waistline. Unlike subcutaneous fat – fat that develops under the skin- it is hidden fat, and has a negative impact on health by producing hormones and other substances that lead to insulin resistance, rise in blood pressure and changes in cholesterol level.

Human body shapes can be categorized into two: “apple” if one carries the entire extra weight around the body’s midsection and “pear” if the extra weight is carried around hips and thighs.  If you have an apple shape you are more susceptible to have visceral belly fat present. Factors such us sedentary life, unhealthy eating habits, hormonal changes, aging and genetics contribute to belly fat. Daily life factors, such as stress and not getting enough sleep can also lead to the development of this type of fat.

Determination of visceral fat is very simple; one can use a measuring tape and measure the waistline where the sides of the waist are the narrowest. You are at high risk of health problems caused by belly fat if you are a woman with a waistline measuring over 89 cm and if you are a man with a waistline measuring over 102 cm.

Why does waist size matter?

Many researches suggest that fat that accumulates around the waist and chest may have a hazardous long-term impact on health. For reasons that are still not completely clear visceral fat poses great danger to our health when compared to subcutaneous fat. Infact these fats are associated with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in women especially as they tend to develop this type of fat during menopause. These deposited fats behave like the endocrine gland and secrete chemicals that affect the surrounding organs for example the liver.

How to prevent it

Diet and exercise are the best ways to get rid of belly fat. Exercising on regular basis -researchers recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity such as jogging or brisk walking at least four times a week- building up your abdominal muscles, cutting down on calories and food portion sizes, consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, consuming lean meats and high fiber foods such as whole grains and eliminating trans fats and saturated fats from the diet can be of great help to combat abdominal fat. Lifestyle changes such us quitting smoking and heavy drinking, reducing stress levels and getting good sleep can also aid in the reduction of visceral fat.

Waist size increase, especially in people who are not overweight, can serve as a warning sign that one needs to take a second look at his/her lifestyle, how much he/she is eating and how much he/she is exercising. The health risks associated with visceral fat are a great reason to have a flat belly.


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