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Belly Fat May Hit Your Heart the Hardest
Date:8/29/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- People who have a normal weight but have excess belly fat may have a higher risk of dying from heart disease than even obese individuals, researchers report.

In a new study, investigators found that normal-weight people who have what is called central obesity are at almost three times greater risk of dying from heart disease and two times greater risk of dying from any cause than those of normal weight with a normal waist-to-hip ratio.

"People with normal weight may be less likely to feel the need for lifestyle changes," explained lead researcher Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "But, central obesity isn't healthy even in those with normal weight."

There are several reasons why central obesity may raise the risk of death, Lopez-Jimenez said. It increases insulin resistance, and people with central obesity tend to have less fat in areas where fat might be protective, such as the hips and legs, he said. People with central obesity also tend to have less muscle mass.

For obese people, some of the risk is tempered by fat distribution, Lopez-Jiminez noted. Obese people tend to have fat in those places where it may be protective, and they tend to have more muscle mass, he explained.

For normal-weight people with central obesity, the only way to reduce the risk is to lose weight and build muscle mass, Lopez-Jimenez said, so that the weight is redistributed.

"A healthy diet and exercise are the way to treat this problem. You do both, lose weight and build muscle mass," he said.

The findings were presented Monday at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

For the study, Lopez-Jimenez's team collected data on more than 12,000
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