Belly Fat May Be More Dangerous for Women

Last week I wrote about why where you carry your body fat matters. We learned that visceral fat, the stuff that encircles your organs, is much more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which lies just under the skin.

We also talked about how the InBody 570 measures your visceral fat level, that anything over 10 on that measurement indicates you are in the danger zone, and we really want to shoot for that measurement to be 5 or under.

If you don't have easy access to an InBody, an easier gut check (ha!) is to measure your waist circumference, and/or you waist-to-hip ratio. Here's where three respected organizations research shows those measurements should be:



Definition of Abdominal Obesity

American Heart Association

Waist Circumference

Women: > 35 inches

Men: > 40 inches

International Diabetes Federation

Waist Circumference

Women: > 31.5 inches

Men: > 35.5 inches

World Health Organization

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Women: > 0.85

Men: > 0.9

The chart above shows where the risk lies for both men and women. If you are over these numbers, you are at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other health problems. 

And according to the March 6 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, a study that involved over 500,000 people (55% women), women who carry more weight around the middle have a 10% to 20% greater risk of heart attack than those women who just had a high Body Mass Index (BMI).

In fact compared to BMI, waist-to-hip ratio (remember: a measurement of central adiposity and indicator of visceral fat) in women was 18% stronger as a heart attack indicator as compared to 6% in men.


According to Dr. Barbara Kahn, the George Richards Minot Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the message is less about the gender differences and more about the overall risks presented by central adiposity.

A Reminder: Why the Location of Your Body Fat Matters

People with fat around their abdominal area are at greater risk of developing hypertension when compared to those with a similar BMI who primarily have fat concentrations elsewhere on the body. 

You have two types of adipose tissue (body fat): subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat lies just under your skin around the belly, thighs, rear, and extremities. Visceral fat lies below your abdominal muscles and encircles your organs. Depending on your body type, you may be unaware that you have a high level of visceral fat if you only rely on BMI

When the weight gain is in the abdominal area, there’s a greater risk for high blood pressure because this type of body fat is more likely to cause the arteries to become thick and stiff. When your blood vessels get stiff, it becomes harder to push the blood throughout your body. The body then has to create more pressure to move the blood, which may lead to a lasting increase in blood pressure.

Additionally, visceral fat is thought to interact more intimately with the kidneys and adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating your blood pressure. By interfering with the function of those organs, visceral fat is a serious promoter of high blood pressure.

So What Do We Do About It?

This will probably not surprise you. If you need to lose body fat and get rid of that dangerous belly fat, you need to nourish your body with good food and get your body moving - exercise.

What MAY surprise you is the type of exercise you need to focus on. 

Because we lose muscle mass as we age (without proper exercise), focusing on resistance training is one of the big keys to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Muscle is metabolically active - it does stuff so it burns calories - fat is not, it just sits there. The more muscle and less body fat we have the better. According to Harvard Health Online, adding strength training a minimum of twice a week can help you maintain a healthy weight, may improve blood sugar in people with diabetes, and also may help you maintain your weight.

It's really not more complicated than that. If you want to get rid of that excess belly fat and improve your long term health, you need to get into the weight room a couple times a week.

If you're reading this and want to drop some belly fat, but haven't worked out in years, or maybe are dealing with some lingering injuries, I am confident we can help. Just contact us here and we'll set you up with a free consultation with one of our coaches and help you map out a plan.

-Coach Dean

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