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Body Fat Related to Heart Problems in Adults of Normal Weight

English: William Stiger an Overweight young ad...

Is there a relationship between body fat and heart problems in adults who are of normal weight? New evidence suggests that there is. What the evidence suggests is that older adults of normal weight face an increased risk of heart-related diseases and death if they have a high percentage of body fat.

Researchers analyzed data from nutrition surveys. They looked specifically at normal-weight adults who were 70 years of age, on average. In studying data on 1,528 people with a normal body mass index (BMI), researchers discovered that nearly one in three women and one in five men had a body fat percentage that was higher than what is regarded as being healthy.

Body Mass Index

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of weight in relation to height. It is a measure of body fat that is based on a person’s weight and height. However, BMI measurements have come under fire in the past as being inaccurate gauges of body fat.

In the 13 years that followed the survey, 902 of the participants died. 419 of the deaths were due to heart-related disease. The researchers did not find any differences in how often people who had normal and high body fat levels died of any cause. A high body fat level was defined as over 35% in women and 25% in men.

What the study did discover, however, was that women with excess body fat had a 57% higher chance of dying from heart problems within 11 years of the study, when compared to women who had a healthy level of body fat. Men who had an excessive amount of body fat faced a higher risk of heart-related death after the 11-year period.

Published findings

This was according to findings that were published in The American Journal of Cardiology. Additional research is needed to understand what could explain the differences between women and men.

The researchers found that participants in the survey who had the highest levels of body fat were most likely to have metabolic syndrome and hypertension (high blood pressure). This is a cluster of risk factors that when taken together may be a harbinger of diabetes and heart problems later on in life.

The lead researcher in the survey was Dr. John Batsis. He is a geriatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. In referring to the human body’s ability to process sugars and fats, he said, “Just because someone has a normal BMI does not necessarily mean they are metabolically normal.”

Built on previous research

This study was built on previous research which revealed that some people who are of normal weight may still be carrying around too much body fat. Excess body fat has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

What can be done to help older adults who have an excessive amount of body fat? Dr. Batsis said that older adults lose muscle mass as a part of the aging process. However, he said that, “Doctors can help their older patients change their health behavior, such as controlling high blood pressure, losing weight or addressing elevated cholesterol. “
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