Fit and Fat, Part 2 – Topic of the Month – December 2013

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
Read more by this author.

Doctor Paul KennedyIn May 0f 2011, I wrote about the concept of being fit when one is also overweight or fat. The general assessment of “fatness” is based on a procedure called Body Mass Index (or BMI) that compares scale weight to height. The information is “charted” and produces a number that estimates adiposity (“fatness”). Although the estimate is just that—an estimate—it gives a general idea of an individual’s level of body fat versus lean body tissue (muscle mass, bone, internal organs, etc.). The focus of the measurement, of course, is the amount of body fat one possesses. In general, a BMI “number” of less than 18.5 indicates too LITTLE body fat, 18.5 to 24.9 is considered “normal” or “healthy”, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 to 34.9 is considered Obese-Level I, 35 to 39.9 is considered Obese-Level II and a BMI greater than 40 is known as “Extreme” Obesity. Your BMI is an important number for you to know to assist in maintaining a healthy weight. For an easy measurement, go to cdc.gov/healthyweight and plug in YOUR numbers to determine your BMI.

But, as mentioned in the May 2011 Topic of the Month, is it possible to be fit AND fat? The answer in many cases is “yes” but a new study (Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2013) that included over 71,000 participants has indicated that being overweight or obese may still be a risk factor even for those overweight and/or obese individuals that do NOT have “metabolic syndrome”. Metabolic syndrome is a list of health issues that includes one or more of the following conditions: high blood pressure, high LDL (low density lipoproteins—the “bad fat”), low HDL (high density lipoproteins—he “good fat”), high triglycerides (blood “sugar”) and/or a family history of heart disease. In other words, the new study indicated that those individuals that are overweight or obese and DO NOT have the metabolic syndrome symptoms listed above may still have a greater risk for “myocardial infarction” (heart attack) and “ischemic heart disease” (poor blood flow to the heart muscle as a result of full or partial blockage of the blood vessels to the heart).

Another finding of the study that has been shown in previous research literature on this topic is the presence of abdominal fat. In some individuals, fat is predominantly deposited in or around the stomach and other nearby internal organs. This is considered an even greater indication of the possibility of future heart and circulatory issues. Once again, relatively fit individuals that did NOT suffer from metabolic syndrome but were over-fat (higher BMI) were still found to be more likely than “normal” weight individuals with respect to their chances regarding heart disease.

So what’s the take-away message? It means that nearly everyone—regardless of their current weight or health– can benefit from safely and regularly performed exercise. Always check with your doctor before beginning any fitness and/or exercise program and, when possible, work with a certified fitness specialist that can put together a program that is just right for YOU.
Remember also that even a small weight loss of just 5% to 10% can help reduce the chances of a variety of health issues by over 50%. Now THAT’S a bargain.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the Leisure Fitness Topic of the Month for December, 2013.
Happy Holidays everyone !

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