Why measuring tape might need to be part of your next check-up

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Body mass index is among the typical measurements used to assess health. But a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association shows there’s another measurement that may show your risk of heart disease.

The remark, which was published Thursday in the journal Circulation, noted that having excess belly fat around the organs is tied to an enhanced risk of heart disease. This is regardless of whether a patient has a healthy BMI.

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“This scientific statement provides the most recent research and information on the relationship between obesity and obesity treatment in coronary heart disease, heart failure and arrhythmias,” said Dr. Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, chair of the writing committee and a Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator and chief in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The timing of this information is important because the obesity epidemic contributes significantly to the global burden of cardiovascular disease and numerous chronic health conditions that also impact heart disease.”

Visceral fat, which develops over the center of the body, carries several health risks. According to Medical News Today, they include increased blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and heart attack.

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Experts recommend that in addition to BMI, abdominal measurements be taken during health check-ups because of the increased heart disease risk of a high waist circumference or low waist-to-hip ratio — despite patients having a healthy weight.

“Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard,” Powell-Wiley said.

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In writing the statement, researchers paid close attention to studies on managing and treating abdominal obesity. According to the group, consuming fewer calories can decrease abdominal fat. Additionally, aerobic exercise is the most beneficial physical activity to lessen abdominal obesity. Engaging in the recommended minimum of 150 minutes a week of physical activity may be enough to decrease abdominal fat. In some cases, exercise alone or in conjunction with dietary changes has been shown to lessen abdominal obesity without weight loss.

“The research provides strong evidence that weight management be included as an essential aspect of managing atrial fibrillation, in addition to the standard treatments to control heart rate, rhythm and clotting risk,” Powell-Wiley said.

Find out more about the AHA’s scientific statement here.