Excess abdominal fat and being overweight are bad news for your health. However, according to a recent study, the location of fat on your body is a more accurate predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk than your actual weight.The study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, suggests that instead of focusing on your weight, you should be looking at your body shape to determine your risk for heart disease.
Body shape, not body fat
For the study, scientists followed more than 2,500 postmenopausal women for about two decades.
Load up on vitamin C.We need at least 90 mg of vitamin C per day and the best way to get this is by eating at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. So hit the oranges and guavas!
The results revealed that neither body fat percentage, nor fat mass of the participants could be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Instead, the researchers found that the women in the study with the highest percentages of waist fat and the lowest percentages of leg fat had a three times greater risk of developing CVD compared to the volunteers who had more leg fat but less fat around their waist. (: Are young women with heart problems being overlooked?)
The results showed that there is some truth to the belief that being pear-shaped, or carrying weight in your thighs and hips, can be healthier than being apple-shaped, or carrying weight in your belly area.
Cut down on smoking and drinking. Have you ever met a smoker who is glad they started smoking? Neither have I. It is the single most destructive thing you can do to your body. Drinking can be harmful if you consume alcohol in excess or binge drink but, like most things, moderation is the key. A glass of red wine has even been proven to be good for the heart. But too much can be devastating to your health.
The participants with the most leg fat mass were at least 32 percent less likely to be diagnosed with CVD during the study period, unlike the women with the lowest leg fat mass.
Don’t obsess over your weight; adopt healthy lifestyle habits
There’s no denying that maintaining a healthy weight is key to improving your overall well-being, but simply losing weight doesn’t guarantee heart health.
To ensure that you’re carrying weight in the healthiest place possible, you should also keep an eye on your mental health. Studies have shown that belly fat is connected to your hormones and that the accumulation of abdominal fat is linked to yourstress levels.
One study even suggested that female participants with high levels of visceral fat had a higher cortisol (stress hormone) spike due to stress, even one hour after the stressful event.
Power up with protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. Choose lean or low-fat cuts of beef or pork, and skinless chicken or turkey. Get your protein from seafood twice a week. Quality protein sources come from plant based foods, too.
Make lifestyle changes to manage your stress and reduce belly fat. Try relaxing activities like writing a journal, meditation, yoga and other mindfulness-based stress reduction practices.
Alternatively, you can tryadaptogenic herbs for stress management. Re-balance your cortisol levels and relieve HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis dysfunction with herbs like ashwagandha, cordyceps, licorice root and schisandra. Adaptogenic herbs are available in powdered form that you can mix into coffee, smoothies or tea.
Lower your risk for heart disease and stroke by eating lots of fruits and vegetables. At least half of your plate should be fruits and veggies.
The other half of your plate should be whole grains such as:
- Brown rice
- Whole grain barley
- Whole grain corn
- Whole oats
- Whole rye
- Whole wheat
- Wild rice
Incorporate dairy products into your diet such as milk, cheese, plain yogurt and other milk products. A heart-healthy diet should also include beans, eggs and unsalted nuts along with lean meats, seafood and skinless poultry.
Make Sure to Eat Enough Protein. Eating enough protein is incredibly important, and many experts believe that the recommended daily intake is too low. Protein is particularly important for weight loss, and works via several different mechanisms. A high protein intake can boost metabolism significantly, while making you feel so full that you automatically eat fewer calories. It can also cut cravings and reduce the desire for late-night snacking. Eating plenty of protein has also been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Limit your intake or avoid junk food. These foods contain added sugars, fats and sodium, and little to no nutrients, which can only make you gain more weight.Regardless of body shape, heart disease is the main cause of death for American women while stroke is the third main cause of death for women in the country. Follow a heart-healthy diet and exercise regularly to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.