Belly fat could be more dangerous than being overweight in post- - Tucson News Now

Belly fat could be more dangerous than being overweight in post-menopausal women

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A lot of us fight the battle of the bulge and now University of Arizona researchers have found that winning that fight could be a matter of life and death.

University of Arizona Epidemiology and Biostatistics Professor and Department Chair Dr. Zhao Chen headed up a national study that has found not all extra pounds are equal when it comes to their impact on your health.

Dr. Chen and her colleagues looked more than 160,000 post-menopausal women and found that women who have apple-shaped bodies--that's more abdominal fat--have the highest risk of dying prematurely. Those are women with a waist circumference of 31 inches or more.

According to the study, having more belly fat could be more dangerous than carrying slightly more excess weight over all.

The good news is that people can do something about what's called central fat.

Experts say what they have to do is reduce overall body fat.

First, the obvious thing to do is cut calories and to become more physically active.

Pay attention to what you're eating and see where you can cut back on sugar and fat in your diet, according to registered dietitian and University of Arizona Professor of Health Promotion Sciences Dr. Cynthia Thomson.

She said physical activity is important too.

"A bunch of crunches, trying to center on your tummy isn't going to make the difference. Getting over all more active is what you want to do. And then also look at your sleep. Try to sleep eight hours a night. Try to get good quality sleep and then realize that stress is also a contributing factor to that central fat. So anything you can do, including physical activity, to kind of reduce that stress in your life is also helpful," Thomson said.

Chen said her study also found that post-menopausal women who were underweight, according to the BMI or body mass index, could have a higher risk of premature death.

Thomson said a person who is underweight could have metabolic issues such as high cholesterol or other risk factors, that physicians should look at more than BMI when assessing health.

Chen said her team also found that age and ethnicity appear to play a role in whether body weight is a risk factor for early death.

She said the study indicates that "what is a healthy BMI across all age and ethnic groups needs to be revisited and redefined for those different age and ethnic groups. Right now we have only one healthy BMI range for all ages and ethnic groups."

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