Health Watch -- Fat Belly

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Although obesity of any kind can be bad for your health, some fat is especially dangerous.

If you've got a spare tire or a pot belly, your health could be at risk. That's according to researchers at the Center for Clinical and Basic Research in Denmark. They measured the body fat and distribution of body fat in a group of more than 1,000 elderly women, then scanned their arteries for the calcium deposits that are the first signs of hardening of the arteries, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

They found that women who carried excess weight in their bellies had more calcium deposits in their arteries, regardless of how much excess weight they had in other parts of their bodies.

This isn't the first study to find that excess abdominal fat is risky. Dr. Margo Denke, a nutrition expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says excess weight in the stomach area is bad for the heart and vascular system. Measure your waist and hips, and if your waist measurement is bigger than your hip measurement, you could be at risk.

The Danish researchers say there's no way to control how your fat distributes itself in your body. If you tend to put on excess fat in your abdominal area, you'll just have to diet and exercise to reduce fat throughout your body.