Abdominal obesity refers to the presence of excess fat in the abdominal area. The abdomen is the part of your body between your chest and your pelvis. Those who are “apple-shaped” tend to store excess body fat around their stomach and abdomen. Abdominal obesity is often referred to as “belly fat.”
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Also known as
A 2019 study describes abdominal obesity as:
Belly FatCentral ObesityIntra-abdominal Fat
Example: Abdominal obesity increases the risk of certain health problems, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
What is abdominal obesity?
You may have heard the term “abdominal obesity” or “central obesity” at your health care provider’s office or at a medical show. The terms sound very complicated, but they are just different ways of describing belly fat. If you carry too much fat around your belly, you have belly fat.
So why does abdominal obesity matter? Because too much fat in your abdomen can put you at greater risk for certain medical conditions than excess fat in your thighs or buttocks. Fat in your abdomen is sometimes referred to as visceral fat and surrounds important organs. Excess fat in the abdomen can put anyone at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease), and for women, it increases the risk of breast cancer.
How to measure
There are several ways to measure and assess belly fat. Abdominal obesity can be measured at the health care provider’s office. Your healthcare provider may use expensive scanning equipment to see exactly where the fat is in your abdomen. But those tests can be costly and inconvenient.
There are simpler ways to measure abdominal obesity. Each method requires a flexible tape measure (like the ones used for sewing) and only takes a few minutes to perform.
This method requires you to measure the size of your abdomen, according to the National Institute of Health. First, wrap a tape measure around the fullest part of your stomach, especially over your belly button and above your hips, making sure it rests gently on the skin. Third, inhale and then measure on the exhale.
The risk of heart disease and diabetes increases with measurement and is based on gender. For example, men are more at risk for chronic conditions if their waist circumference is greater than 40 inches, and for women it is 35 inches.
Waist to hip ratio
The way your waist size compares to your hip size is another way to assess your risk for heart disease. To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, start by measuring your waist circumference (above). Then measure your hips around the widest part. Now divide your waist size by your hip size to get your waist to hip ratio.
If you’re a man, your chance of having a heart attack or stroke increases as the number rises above 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women.
Can I change it?
The best way to reduce abdominal obesity is to lose weight. Of course, when you lose weight, you can’t choose where on your body the weight loss will take place. So you can lose weight in your legs or hips and still maintain some belly fat. But the weight loss in your abdomen can help increase your risk of heart disease.
Talk to your healthcare provider about how much weight you need to lose to improve your health. Then take small steps to create lifelong changes to eat healthy, exercise, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.