Fat Facts

Aging & Metabolism

As you age and your metabolism slows down, the amount of fat in your body slowly increases. Women experience an even greater fat percentage increase than men do. After menopause, women’s body fat distribution tends to shift decreasing in the arms, legs and hips, and increasing in the abdomen. Belly fat is not limited to the stuff that you can grab with your hand. Visceral fat, fat that lies deeper inside the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs is more of a health concern. Gaining this type of fat has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems. Subcutaneous fat, located between the skin and the abdominal wall, is more visible but also less likely to be a health risk.

 

Physical Activity

A slowing metabolism and decreased physical activity certainly contribute to overall weight gain as we age, however, those factors don't influence visceral fat accumulation directly. Heredity, or an inherited tendency, is suspected to be a main factor in gaining weight in the midsection. Hormones also play a role and changes in hormones after menopause may change the way that your body breaks down and stores fat, leading to more fat accumulating in the midsection. It is not uncommon for some women to even experience a widening waist without gaining any weight. Even in women of a normal weight, too much fat concentrated in the midsection is unhealthy. While gaining weight, in general, can have negative effects on anyone’s health, abdominal weight gain is particularly unhealthy, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Too much belly fat increases the risk of:

*  Heart disease

*  Breast cancer

*  Diabetes

*  Metabolic syndrome

*  Gallbladder problems

*  High blood pressure

*  Colorectal cancer
 

Research

The researchers also have found that abdominal fat cells aren't just dormant energy waiting to be burned up. Some fat-cell-produced hormones can promote insulin resistance, a precursor to type II diabetes; others can produce estrogen after menopause, which may increase a person’s breast cancer risk.

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