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A Normal Weight May Not Be Good For You: Now What?


Are you happy with your weight? If your scale says your weight is fine, why should there be a problem?  Unfortunately, the problem is that although your weight indicates a “normal” weight, you may have too much fat for your heart.  Recent research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, found that heart disease is associated with excessive body fat. But before you throw your scale out the window, let’s take a look at the details of this research . . .

Are you happy with your weight?  Perhaps you’ve always been at an acceptable weight for your age and height, or you just recently lost a few pounds to fall into the “normal” or “healthy” weight category. So if your scale says your weight is fine, why should there be a problem? 

Unfortunately, the problem is that although your weight indicates a “normal” weight, you may have too much fat for your heart.  Recent research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, found that heart disease is associated with excessive body fat. 

Now what? For years you’ve been told to maintain a healthy weight – or what you thought was a healthy weight. And now they’ve changed their minds? Now what must you do?

Before you get too excited, let’s take a closer look . . . 

The BMI’s Have It
Mayo cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD calls the syndrome “normal-weight obesity.”  Instead of only using a scale, doctors use body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of weight to height, to determine if you are overweight.  
In traditional thought if you have a BMI of 25 or higher, you are considered overweight.  If your BMI is over 30, you are considered obese. A normal weight is defined as BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.

However, Mayo cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD says that these measures fall short. "There are more and more data showing that we need to go beyond BMI lowering," he says. 

According to the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session, patients who are considered to have excessive body fat, have a fat percentage of more than 20% for men and 30% for women. It is these individuals who may be more at risk for heart disease. 

2,000 men and women of normal weight were included in a study to find the links of normal-weight obesity to heart risk factors.

“Compared with their normal-weight counterparts who did not have excessive fat, those with normal weight obesity had higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels, higher blood sugar levels and higher rates of metabolic syndrome,” says Lopez-Jimenez.  One’s susceptibility to heart disease is increased when these factors are taken into consideration.

It is unfortunate that this has not yet become a normal part of a physician’s check-up routine.  A person would have to go to the gym to get his or her body fat measured, instead of the clinic.  And, going to the gym is not something everyone will do.  Therefore, many people are simply not getting their fat measured.  Lopez-Jimenez feels that doctors will have to measure this in the future. 

However, Robert Eckel, MD, a past president of the American Heart Association and a professor of endocrinology at the University of Colorado, does not agree.

"Waist circumference, not percent body fat, should be in the mix. If a woman has 20% body fat and it's all in the pelvis, she's probably not at increased risk [of heart disease]. But if it's around the waist, she probably is," he says.
Eckel says that the cutoff point of the studies is not reliable.  "Who is to say that more than 20% [body fat] for men, or 30% for women, is abnormal? That hasn't been established."

Don’t throw your scale away quite yet (as much as you’d like to!). This information is not to say that a normal weight range is useless.  It is still important to remain in the normal weight range for other health issues; however, remember that you should have your fat measured also.



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