Heart attacks are usually the result of poor lifestyle decisions, such as going for long periods without exercising and eating an unhealthy diet.
Flouting exercise and a nutritious diet can lead to the development of abdominal fat, a dangerous form of fat that is associated with conditions that clog up the arteries, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Clogging up the arteries restricts the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, a mechanism that raises your risk of having a heart attack, so reducing abdominal fat may save your life.
Strengthening the association between abdominal fat build-up and heart attack risk, a new study suggests carrying excess belly fat puts heart attack survivors at risk of a second attack.
Drawing on data from more than 22,000 patients who had suffered a first heart attack, experts at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden investigated the link between their waist measurement – an indication of abdominal obesity – and the risk of a second heart attack, or stroke.
Those who did suffer a second cardiovascular event – heart attack or stroke – were more likely to be “abdominally obese”.
The most urgent finding is that that men with a waist measurement of 37ins or more, and women measuring 31ins or more around the middle, were “abdominally obese” – and at greatest risk.
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In fact, many studies have shown that low-carb diets are more effective at reducing abdominal fat than low-fat diets.
In an eight-week study including 69 overweight men and women, scientists found that people who followed a low-carb diet lost 10 percent more belly fat and 4.4 percent more total fat than those on a low-fat diet.
Additionally, research suggests that the ketogenic diet, which is a very low-carb diet, may also help reduce visceral fat.
One review suggested the belly fat-burning benefits of a following a keto diet can be attributed to the substitution high-carb foods with fat.
This link is supported in a study of 28 overweight and obese adults, which found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost more fat, especially belly fat, than people following a low-fat diet.
While cutting down on carbs can accelerate abdominal fat loss, increasing your intake of protein may help to attack the harmful belly fat too.
Research suggests that eating more protein can help fend off hunger by increasing levels of the fullness hormones GLP-1, PYY and cholecystokinin.
It can also help reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Furthermore, studies have shown that protein can help boost your metabolism as well, which in turn promotes weight loss and visceral fat loss.
Additionally, many studies have found that people who eat more protein tend to carry less visceral fat.
A study in 23,876 adults showed that a higher protein intake was linked to a lower body mass index, higher “good” HDL cholesterol and a smaller waist circumference, which is a marker of visceral fat.
For optimal results, you should combine a healthy diet with resistance (strength) exercise and cardiovascular exercise to reduce the harmful belly fat, advises Bupa.
How do I know if I am having a heart attack?
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen)
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing