Recent scientific data suggests that even for people with normal body mass index (BMI), higher abdominal fat ratio heralds cardiovascular disorders, as visceral fat is a clear health hazard. Experts like Cardiologist in Lahore recommend measuring both BMI and the abdominal fat ratio to measure heart disease risk. Read on to know more about belly fat, and its effect on heart health:

Why is belly fat dangerous?


With visceral fat—particularly around the liver and the stomach, the inflammatory markers are higher, and the levels of bad cholesterol, known as LDL are increased. These are both independent risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis—the process of plaque buildup in the arterial walls that obstructs blood flow to the heart muscle. Consequently, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and gets infarcted. This is known as a heart attack. 


Another common disorder seen in people with higher visceral fat is—atrial fibrillation—whereby the heart has an irregular beating rhythm. Atrial fibrillation can predispose to inadequate blood flow to the body, and higher chance of stroke as clots form in the atrial chamber. Lifestyle changes and weight loss curbs atrial fibrillation, according to research data.


The incidence of other cardiovascular events like hypertension and stroke are also increased with higher visceral fat. Another point to worry about in such people is the age at which they present with cardiovascular disorders. Research shows that higher visceral or belly fat is associated with heart disease at earlier age, in comparison to people with lower visceral fat, and tend to have shorter lifespans.


On the other hand, people with higher BMI, who do not have high belly fat are classified as ‘metabolically healthy’ in that their risk of cardiovascular disorders is lower. 

Older studies linking visceral fat with heart health


A 2018 study published in the European Heart Journal shows a 13 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease in people with higher visceral fat and BMI. 


The Annals of Internal Medicine examined data from a span of two decades to show that men and women with excess belly fat, even with normal BMI, were twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disorders.

How to deal with excess belly fat?


The good news about losing belly fat is that even 5 percent weight loss can improve the biomarkers for cardiovascular health. This means that for people with both, high BMI and normal BMI, losing weight and targeting the mid-section is mandated for mitigating the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The recommended amount of moderate to intense exercise for such adults is 150 minutes per week, according to the American Heart Association guidelines. 


For people with larger midsection, there is no quick diet that can fix the problem. The only solution is to lose overall weight, and that will naturally bring a change in the visceral fat as well. Along with losing weight, lifestyle and dietary modifications are a must. The metabolic risk factors for heart diseases include: inflammatory markers in the body, blood sugar and blood pressure. Eliminating processed foods and sugar from the diet can manage most of these risk factors. In addition, exercising the recommended amount of time, eating the right foods and improving the sleep habits can make a big difference. 


According to experts like Best Cardiologist in Islamabad weight loss should be approached with both calorie cut-down and getting more workout. Without either of these changes, reduction of visceral fat is difficult. Dealing with the metabolic risk factors lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases and the risk of sudden cardiac death. Alongside, it is important to get regular check-ups and complete physicals from healthcare providers.