Mayo cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, calls the syndrome
Doctors typically use
body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, to determine if you're
overweight and at risk for heart woes. Overweight is defined as a BMI of
25 or higher; normal weight is defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
But Lopez-Jimenez says that measure falls short.
"There are more and more data showing that we need to go beyond BMI
lowering," he tells WebMD.
Patients with excessive body fat, especially around the waistline, should be
evaluated for heart disease and urged to eat right and
exercise, Lopez-Jimenez says.
What's excessive? A body fat percentage of more than 20% for men and 30% for
women, according to Lopez-Jimenez.
The findings were presented here at the American College of Cardiology's
Annual Scientific Session.
Normal-Weight Obesity Linked to Heart Risk Factors
The study involved more than 2,000 men and women of normal weight.
A total of 61% of them had excessive body fat and thus were classified as
suffering from normal-weight obesity.
Compared with their normal-weight counterparts that didn't have excessive
fat, those with normal-weight obesity had higher
cholesterol and triglyceride levels, higher blood sugar levels, and higher
rates of metabolic syndrome.
All these factors raise one's susceptibility to heart disease.
Lopez-Jimenez says that many gyms have commercially available scales that
calculate your body fat percentage in a matter of seconds.
"Sadly, it's easier to get body fat measured at the gym right now than
at the clinic," he says.
"But I think that in the future, doctors will be forced to measure
this," Lopez-Jimenez says.
Robert Eckel, MD, a past president of the American Heart Association and a
professor of endocrinology at the University of Colorado, disagrees.
"Waist circumference, not percent body fat, should be in the mix. If a
woman has 20% body fat and it's all in the pelvis, she's probably not at
increased risk [of heart disease]. But if it's around the waist, she probably
is," he tells WebMD.
Eckel also challenges the study's cutoff points. "Who is to say that
more than 20% [body fat] for men, or 30% for women, is abnormal? That hasn't
been established," he says.