As many people know, obesity is a widespread medical condition characterized by excess accumulation of body fat. Being obese means that you have an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, poor blood fat profile, and heart muscle disease; all of which contribute to an increased risk for a heart attack and subsequent heart failure. Although the body mass index, or BMI, is more commonly used as an indicator for obesity, belly fat may be a more effective and easier way to measure for obesity.
BMI factors in weight and height to produce a measurement of body fat. On the BMI scale, a BMI of over 30kg/m^2 can be interpreted as obese. Every increase of 5 on the BMI scale is associated with an average of 41% increase in risk of heart failure and 26% increase in risk of death from heart failure. Thus, falling within an appropriate BMI range relative to one’s height is a necessary component in reducing risk for illnesses associated with the heart. Because BMI values are simply based on the two factors of weight and height, they can be inaccurate calculations. Moreover, muscle weighs more than fat, which contributes another discrepancy in the calculation. For example, a heavier muscular man will have a higher BMI than a lighter non-muscular man of the same height. Because the BMI value does not take the ratio of muscle to fat into account, using the BMI will incorrectly categorize the heavier muscular man at higher risk for obesity.
Contrary to BMI values, measurements of belly fat use only abdominal fat (rather than the whole body) to dictate health risks, making it a more effective indicator of health risks in obese patients according to recent research. With every 10cm increase in waist circumference, there is a 29% increased risk for heart failure; this increase in risk is slightly higher for females. In other words, having a higher waist-to-hip ratio is correlated with greater risk for developing heart failure.
Image Source: Peter Hince