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Abdominal fat linked to heart failure and brittle bones

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Excess abdominal fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and now osteoporosis, says the Harvard Medical School. Obesity was once thought to be protective against osteoporosis or weak bones but advanced imaging technology is proving otherwise. 

Researchers performed 106 comprehensive body scans on obese but otherwise healthy men and women. They discovered some people who are overweight have excessive amounts of fat inside their bones as well. Excess fatty tissue can occupy the healthy bone marrow space and inhibit new bone formation. Diminished bone formation can make bones weak, brittle and prone to fractures.

Osteoporosis has historically been associated with small and frail-framed women. Medicine once touted obesity as a protective mechanism against osteoporosis. In the past, medicine has relied on the body mass index (BMI) system to determine obesity and other health related risk factors. BMI is a ratio of an individual’s height to weight. This system has been recently under scrutiny as it fails to distinguish muscle from body fat and most importantly where the fat is located in the body. Technically, a weight lifter with a very low per cent body fat can be classified as obese using this system.

To address this problem, obesity and one’s overall health risk factors are now being quantified and measured by patterns of fat distribution instead of BMI. Researchers have found that the greater amount of fat one has, especially around the midsection, the higher the risk of osteoporosis as well as other major diseases. Excess belly fat also puts people at a greater risk of heart disease and cancer according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The missing link that has been uncovered is inflammation. Inflammation in the body is a normal and desired process that is part of the healing process.

Inflammation brings extra blood, immunity and nutrition to the area but it is meant to be a short-term response. In today’s society people have been found to experience chronic inflammation that is caused by their lifestyles, excessive amounts of stress, lack of physical activity and inadequate diets.

Medicine is now able to measure inflammation as a primary determinant in the blood. Those with higher levels of inflammation have been found to have higher rates of osteoporosis and obesity.

Researchers have also found inflammation to be a major link between obesity and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The hardening, narrowing and thickening of the arteries is due to the deposition of fatty material known as cholesterol to the walls of blood vessels. Inflammation in the body due to stress, poor diet and physical inactivity is the leading cause of high cholesterol.

Inflammation increases bad cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is a natural part of every cell in the body. The body needs it for proper healing, brain function and nerve transmission. The liver produces cholesterol but it is also a by-product of the food that we eat. Stress, injuries and other aspects that negatively affect the body can produce excess cholesterol as a healing response. Many chronic or long-term health conditions will spike cholesterol levels and put a person at risk for heart disease and stroke.

There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, while is HDL is known as “good” cholesterol. Diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction will spike “good” cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol.

Cardiovascular diseases and cancers are not limited to one risk factor as it is a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of physical exercise and smoking. The more risk factors one has, the greater the chance of developing inflammation and disease.

Inflammation produces high blood pressure

Blood pressure is controlled by the flexibility and overall size of the blood vessels. Inflammation and excess cholesterol reduce the flow of blood, which ultimately increases the pressure within the blood vessel.

When the pressure increases, the heart must work harder to pump blood through the smaller space and wherever the blood is traveling to will suffer. Blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to tissues throughout body. The diminished blood flow ultimately produces the inflammatory response and negatively affects the ability for one to heal.

Smoking produces inflammation

Smoke contains chemicals that damage the lining of the blood vessels, producing inflammation and increasing fatty deposits in the arteries. Ingredients like nicotine raise blood pressure, increase heart rate and reduce oxygen flow to the tissues.

Smoking is a destructive lifestyle choice that is highly addictive. It has been linked to weight gain, weight-loss resistance, physical inactivity and excessive chemical stress on the body. Deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease and cancer can be greatly reduced by simply eliminating smoking.

Diet produces inflammation

We are what we eat. Every choice that we make today will impact our tomorrow. Our diet plays a significant role in the prevention or production of inflammation. Diets that are high in artificial processed fats, low in fresh vegetables and fruits and high in alcohol are at the greatest risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.

To help keep your blood pressure under control, and therefore lower your risk of dying, limit the amount of salt you consume. As much as 75 per cent of the salt in the average diet comes from processed foods—everything from bacon to soups to salad dressings. All natural food items such as fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats have very little salt.

Is inflammation genetic?

The inflammatory process within the body is genetic but the lifestyles and environmental factors that trigger it are not. Learned lifestyle habits such as exercise, diet, the use of tobacco and stress management have been found to play a significant role in self-induced chronic inflammation.

Good lifestyle habits are the most effective ways to prevent chronic inflammation regardless of your age, gender or race. Your choices are not genetic.

Healthcare professionals in general are not the best communicators and are often over-worked, stressed and are looking for the “magic bullet” to help people. Society is often looking for a doctor to cure, treat and heal them when they actually have the power to do it themselves.

We seem to stress more about our weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and weak bones in comparison to the lifestyle components that created them. Let’s get back to the basics – eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise, quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.

Dr Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.