While reducing abdominal fat may be key to cut down risks to heart health, anything in excess — extreme diets and exercise may prove to be harmful, said health experts. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, that also include smoking, eating unhealthy foods, diabetes, blood pressure, and a lack of exercise.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 per cent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. “Typically, your health is at ‘increased’ risk if you’re a man with a waist over 94cm (37in), or a woman with a waist over 80cm (31½in),” as per the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
“Abdominal fat, supposed to be the worst fat, is likely to raise the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, coronary artery diseases, heart attacks,” G. R. Kane, Consultant Cardiologist, P. D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Mahim, told IANS.
Kane explained that the abdominal fat is deep among the intestine, stomach, liver and spleen.
“It is set to be metabolically active once it secretes proteins or hormones, which stimulates the blood pressure to go up which also causes retention of sodium so it makes the person more prone for heart disease, it also causes the arteries to constrict because it produces those types of proteins,” he said.
A recent study published in the Journal of American Heart Association showed that visceral adipose tissue (fat that wraps around your abdominal organs) is associated with heart failure. “Visceral fat produces toxins that affect the way your body works. It makes it harder for your body to use a hormone called insulin, which controls your blood glucose (sugar) levels,” the BHF said. “This can lead to type 2 diabetes. Too much glucose in your bloodstream can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases.”
Kalpana Gupta, Clinical Nutritionist, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, told IANS: “A person who loses weight or is on a weight loss diet or does exercise regularly eats less processed food (junk food), and therefore consumes less cholesterol. This will help in lowering cholesterol levels in the body and also in balancing the fats, and help the heart to function properly.” However, it is important to lose weight properly. It should start with simple steps, and if not done properly it can harm our body, Gupta said.
“Drastic reduction in caloric intake/ rapid weight reduction can result in hypotension (low blood pressure), accumulation of uric acid that can increase the chance of gout, gallstones,” she said.
Studies show that a very low calorie diet is also associated with ketosis. Ketosis is a situation when the body starts burning fats for energy, instead of glucose.
Kane said that weight loss is based on the energy that you take. “One has to be on a supervised diet according to the energy requirements that are spread throughout the day. However, people do all types of fad diets and eat all types of things which are not good for the body. And then that produces a deficiency of several trace metals and nutrients which the body requires,” he said.
He also advised avoiding sudden binge eating after fasting for a long time, because they can cause problems. “Anything in excess, like if you over exercise, there are people who do exercise for a prolonged period of time, or they lift weights or run marathons beyond the capacity which the body can handle,” can be harmful, Kane added.