Visceral Fat – The Unseen ThreatMay 16, 2022
By Jennifer Engels, MD
When it comes to your body and fat, you may think fat is fat, but that’s not true. Our bodies produce two kinds of fat, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat, and there is a substantial difference between the two.
- Subcutaneous fat – This is the type of fat located directly under the skin in places like the belly, arms, legs, and hips. It’s the fat you can pinch with your fingers.
- Visceral fat – In contrast, visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity, located near vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. It can also accumulate in the arteries and is sometimes referred to as “active fat” because it can actively increase the risk of a number of serious health problems.
So, the fat you can pinch is subcutaneous fat, while the visceral fat inside your belly can be measured but not pinched.
Causes of Visceral Fat
Stating the obvious, fat is stored when you consume too many calories and do not get enough exercise. Hormonal imbalances and genetics can also play a role, causing some people to store fat in their abdominal area rather than their hips.
Generally, visceral fat is more common in men than women, however for women, getting older can change where the body stores fat. Especially after menopause, women are more likely to develop visceral fat in the abdominal area, even if they do not put on weight.
The Health Risks of Visceral Fat
Having visceral fat in the belly is a sign of metabolic syndrome, a collection of issues, including high blood pressure, obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Combined, these increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Visceral fat can also lead to:
- Various cancers, including breast and colorectal cancer
- Liver disease
- Gallbladder disease and gout
- Fertility issues
- Lower back pain
Diagnosing Visceral Fat
The most accurate way to determine if you have visceral fat and its location in your body is through imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. But there are also ways you can determine at home the likelihood of having visceral fat.
- The shape of your body – When you look in the mirror, is your body round like an apple, or more bottom-heavy and pear shaped? If you have a rounded, apple-like shape, that’s a possible indicator of visceral fat.
- The circumference of your waist – Wrap a tape measure around your waist above your navel, without sucking in your stomach. For women, a waist size of more than 35 inches can be an indicator of visceral fat, and for men it’s having a waist size over 40 inches.
- Your body mass index (BMI) – Your BMI is a formula for determining how much you weigh in relation to your height, and you can use an online calculator to do the math. A BMI over 30 could be an indicator of visceral fat.
Getting Rid of Visceral Fat
The best way to deal with the health risks associated with visceral fat is through a combination of exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes.
- Exercise – Aim for 150 minutes of moderately vigorous to vigorous exercise weekly, with a mixture of cardio and resistance training. You don’t necessarily have to run. Low-impact exercise like brisk walking and biking can do the trick. Your resistance training can be done at home with simple, inexpensive equipment like resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells. And you can get plenty of free online instruction at sites like YouTube.
- Diet – Try drastically reducing your consumption of high-sugar and highly processed foods, while increasing your intake of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, and more complex carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils.
- Lifestyle – Reducing stress can help in reducing fat, as the stress hormone cortisol can increase the amount of visceral fat your body stores. Regular exercise, meditation, and yoga can all serve to reduce the level of stress in your life.
When to See a Doctor
If your best efforts do not seem to be bringing a significant reduction in your weight, and your waist size remains over 35 inches for a woman and over 40 inches for a man, you should schedule an appointment with your physician. At WeCare Frisco producing better health through weight reduction is one of our specialties, and we will work with you to conduct a body composition analysis using our state of the art InBody570 scanner and formulate a holistic plan designed especially for you to maximize your health.
Please don’t let excess weight compromise your health and vitality. Contact us at WeCare Frisco to schedule your initial consultation.