Nearly 90% of us are not sure of the risks that we carry around our waistline called visceral fat. The excess fat around our belly not only makes us look awful and destroys our self-esteem, but the health hazards associated with it are extremely dangerous as well. Carrying this excess baggage can contribute to coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, depression, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders, various forms of cancer, and other degenerative diseases.
The Location Does Matter!!
Body fat comes in two varieties, viz., subcutaneous fat, which is found directly underneath the skin, and visceral fat, which wraps around the internal organs. It is important to understand the difference between the two and its health implications. When it comes to fat deposits in our body, the location of it matters a lot. When you have abdominal fat or visceral fat, it gets accumulated in the spaces between our abdominal organs. The visceral fat is considered to be more harmful to health than the subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat plays a key role in giving certain men the so-called "beer belly" appearance.
What is the ideal Waist Circumference?
While it requires costly imaging techniques to determine the amount of abdominal fat, it can be estimated by knowing the waist circumference. Ideally, for women the waist circumference should be less than 35 inches and for men less than 40 inches.
The more abdominal fat you have, the greater you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Excess storage of fat around our internal organs increases production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, also called cytokines, which leads to inflammation. When the body is inflamed, the liver becomes overwhelmed with cholesterol and toxins, which leads to plaque formation in the arteries, limiting the passage of blood resulting in high blood pressure. The inflammation of plaques also increases the risk of blood clots that could result in stroke. The health risk associated with abdominal fat increases with age – men above 45 years and women above 55 years are at higher risk.
8 lifestyle changes that can go a long way in helping to solve this problem!
1) Limit Sugar Intake: Consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates create a surge in blood sugar and a burst of the hormone insulin, which further leads to the buildup of abdominal fat.
2) Follow Diet Rich in Healthy Fat, Protein, & Fiber: Cut down grain-based foods in your diet and have more healthy fat, increase protein intake and carbs from veggies and high fiber fruits. These foods not only are generally good for your health, they are also less likely to build up abdominal fat.
3) Reduce Exposure to Xenoestrogens: There are number of household and personal products which many of us use every day (e.g., the plastic containers we use for packing/heating food items, cosmetic materials, etc.) contain a category of chemical called xenoestrogen. Excess exposure to xenoestrogens can cause hormone imbalance in both men and women. Consumption of organic foods, which have not been treated with herbicides and pesticides, is one of the easiest ways to avoid xenoestrogens. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, kale, cabbage, etc. have very specific and unique phytonutrients such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that help to fight against these estrogenic compounds.
4) Optimize Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids Ratio: Since our body doesn't have the capability to produce these fatty acids, we need to make sure that we get them from our diet. They both have opposite effects when it comes to the inflammatory response; omega-6 fatty acids have pro-inflammatory effect and omega-3 has anti-inflammatory effect. A diet that is high in Omega-6 but low in Omega-3 can increase the chances of inflammation, while a diet that includes balanced amounts of each reduces inflammation. The healthiest ratio for omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is between 3:1 and 1:1. Most vegetable oils has a ratio of 20:1 or even 30:1 in favor omega-6 fats and it is important to note that by decreasing the omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3 fatty acids can prevent most of chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and depression.
5) Cut Down Saturated Fats: Avoid saturated fats (typically found in meats and butter) and trans fats (found in fried foods and baked goods). Instead try food items that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as fish, nuts and certain oils (olive, flaxseed).
6) Get Moving: Visceral fat likes inactivity! Devote 30 minutes for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week – this will help prevent visceral fat from accumulating. If you can add regular bouts of resistance exercise to your daily routine of physical activity like sit-ups, crunch, pull-ups a few days a week, it can help you reduce the amount of visceral fat you already have.
7) Get Enough Sleep: Research shows, people who had 6 to 7 hours of sleep people had less visceral fat when compared to people who slept less than 5 hours.
8) Relax More & Reduce Stress: During times of stress, your body tend to release certain stress hormones that are produced in the adrenal glands, viz., cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine and it is normal for your cortisol levels to go up and down throughout the day, but when you are in chronic stress, your cortisol level goes up and stays there. This leads to abnormal accumulation of abdominal fat.
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