Why should you care about a little belly fat, you ask?
Because abdominal fat is lethal. It's among the combination of risk factors known as "Syndrome X": high cholesterol, sugar and blood pressure, increased risk of blood clotting and excess weight.
The visceral fat that accumulates around your waistline (unlike subcutaneous fat, which lies under the skin) is particularly dangerous because it is both toxic and mobile - it can invade your organs to set up conditions for disease to develop.
"Visceral fat buildup increases the risk of high blood pressure, blood clotting, elevated levels of 'bad' cholesterol, and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes," according to the American Heart Association.
Apple-shaped individuals - males and females who carry extra weight around the middle and have slimmer lower bodies - are prone to heart disease and diabetes. Apple-shaped women are also candidates for breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
Pear-shaped women (who carry extra weight around the hips or thighs) tend to have decreased risk. Though I have seen plenty of naturally pear-shaped women eat their way to the round shape that increased their risks for the aforementioned conditions.
To determine if you have a healthy waist-to-hip ratio:
_ Measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part of your butt.
_ Measure your waist at its smallest circumference, generally above the belly button.
_ Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
Ideally, women should strive for a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7, while men should have a 0.9. Another way to put it is that a dangerously high waist circumference for men is 40 inches; 35 inches for women.
Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Email
fitness.com. Her column appears Wednesdays.