Most women are acutely aware of their “problem” areas that seem impossible to get rid of despite dieting. Some women typically put on weight in the midsection, while others seem to gain the most weight in the hips and thighs. A European Heart Journal study concluded that body fat distribution can be a key predictor of heart disease.
It’s the toughest spot to lose weight. Your belly. Or maybe it’s your hips.
Researchers found that post-menopausal women who have stubborn belly fat were 91% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, even when they have a normal body mass index (BMI). For both men and women, the wider your waist is in relation to your hips, the more likely you are to develop atherosclerosis, a condition that may lead to metabolic disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death when fatty deposits line the arteries.
While women who hold weight in the middle are four times more prone to have a heart attack than those who hold more weight in their hips, they run a decreased risk of blood clots from vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in comparison.
“Genetics play a part in how body fat is distributed,” says Dr. Amr El Haraki, an OB/GYN with Aurora Bay Area Medical Group in Marinette, Wis. “Focus on decreasing heart disease risk factors. Manage your weight with a heart-healthy diet, add a physical fitness routine, eliminate smoking and minimize alcohol intake. These all contribute to improvement of overall health no matter where body fat is stored.”
What is the most effective way to reach your diet and disease-prevention goals according to your shape? Dr. El Haraki recommends a diet of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats (mono- or polyunsaturated fats) and moderate protein along with 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least five days per week.
“Women come in all shapes and sizes. You can control the likelihood of cardiovascular disease with healthy habits, no matter what your body type, size or genetic predisposition,” says Dr. El Haraki. “Heart disease is not inevitable.”