The Real Story Behind Your Love Handles

The status quo resembles that. However, unlike other types of fat, excess belly fat may negatively impact health.

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You've got some subcutaneous fat. The second kind of fat is located within and surrounds vital organs including the heart, lungs, and liver.

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However, excessive amounts have been linked to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and several malignancies (including breast and colon).

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Discarding excess fat isn't enough. An active organ that produces "lots of nasty substances," as described by Kristen Hairston, MD, an associate professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

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Professor of pathology and comparative medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine Carol Shively, PhD, explains that as the prevalence of obesity rises, people are seeing fat deposits in unusual places, such as the heart and internal organs.

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A CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the gold standard for measuring visceral fat. However, there is a lot easier and cheaper approach to verify.

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Measure your circumference by placing a tape measure around your midsection just above your belly button. Make sure the tape is level by doing it while standing up.

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When comparing the two shapes, "what we're really pointing to with the apple versus pear," explains Hairston, "is that, if you have more abdominal fat, it's probably an indicator that you have more visceral fat."

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