Heart Disease, Diabetes and One's Waistline

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Eduardo G Gonzales

Are people with bulging tummies really more prone to certain diseases? Cynthia C., Manila

Yes. Obese people, especially if their excess fat is in or around the belly, have higher risk of chronic metabolic and cardiovascular illnesses, notably type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and atherosclerosis, all of which are predisposing factors for coronary artery disease (the number one cause of heart attacks) and strokes. Surprisingly though, there is no universally accepted norm for measuring and classifying obesity.

At present, the yardstick preferred by most physicians and researchers in determining obesity is the body mass index (BMI). The BMI takes into account a persons height and weight. In adults, it is equal to the persons weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (BMI=km/m2). An adult who has a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. In children and teenagers, the BMI is determined with the use of gender and age specific charts.

Lately, however, many experts have challenged the validity of the BMI as a tool in assessing overall obesity because of several reasons. Firstly, labeling a person as obese with the use of BMI assumes that the persons excess body weight is caused by excess in body fat. This, however, is not necessarily so. People who have well-developed muscles, as in body builders for example, have high BMIs, yet their excess weight is not due to fat.

Secondly, a significant number of people who are classified as obese by this measurement standard (i.e., BMI) do not develop diabetes mellitus and do not have increased risk for heart diseases. Thirdly, newer epidemiological data indicate that chronic illnesses are associated not with excess body fat, per se, but only with fat around the belly. Why is excess fat around the belly more dangerous to ones health than fat elsewhere? …