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More Than Half Of “Normal Weight” Americans Actually Have Too Much Body Fat

More Than Half Of “Normal Weight” Americans Actually Have Too Much Body Fat

(CBS) April 2, 2008

Think you can tell whether people are overweight just by looking at them?

Guess again.

New research from the Mayo Clinic finds that more than half of Americans considered to be at a normal weight actually have a high percentage of body fat — more than 20 percent for men and 30 percent for women.

Doctors call it “normal weight obesity.”

Too much inside the body fat is linked to heart disease and diabetes.

On The Early Show Wednesday, Dr. Jonathan Whiteson of New York University Medical Center pointed to a colleague, Lori Butler.

“To look at her, she looks great,” he said. “When you weigh her and you check her height as well through the body mass index, she comes out also at a normal range, but when you actually look beneath the skin and you look at the fat weight, then we realize that she actually has a higher percentage of body fat.

“There are different methods to test body fat. We used a technique called bio-impedance analysis. It’s a fancy term. It’s a very simple test. We have a little box with electrical equipment and some wires that are attached to a hand and a foot, and by turning on the machine, we’re able to record the resistance of the electricity through the body, and based on that, we can tell the percentage of body water, of lean body mass muscle, and also of body fat.”

Butler’s was 35 percent — too high.

She says that surprised her, and she plans to “definitely eat healthier, change my diet.”

“With Lori,” Whiteson sais, “this is really the only the risk factor that she has. She has a high body fat percentage. So, we need to change diet. We need and try to reduce her weight and lose some of those fat pounds. We must also make sure her blood pressure is good and diabetes is not present.”

Whiteson says doctors should “think about fat testing as part of typical screening. If you don’t, you are going to be fooled into thinking everything is OK, when it’s not.”

Living well – keeping your heart healthy

Recently a young woman came to my office for consultation. 47 years old, married and 3 children, she had perfected the art of multi-tasking. Taking care of her kids and co-ordiating her husband, managing the household, working a part-time job as well as finding time to keep up her friendships with her girlfriends. She came to see me because she had just been told she has heart disease. With a history of high blood pressure, overweight by 35lbs and a ‘social’ smoker – 5 – 10 cigarettes a few times a week when out with her friends, she new that heart problems were not an impossibility but really never thought that it would present so early in her life. “I have been checking my breasts for lumps and have mammograms when my Doctor says I need to, but we never talked about heart disease”

Truth is, heart disease is the number ONE killer of women, not breast cancer. And that my patient had early menopause and was not on a regular exercise program, she had other risk factors for heart disease that she did not initially tell me about, or realize herself. She did not realize that age of onset of her periods, age of menopause, or lack of dedicated aerobic physical activity increased her risk for heart disease. In fact, she thought she was exercising because “I try and walk everywhere, I am not a couch potato!” Although walking, and any activity for that matter, is good, exercise to help and protect the heart is very specific, and most activities just don’t cut it as heart exercise.

This patients story, sadly, is one of many that I hear every day. Despite all the information that is ‘out there’ on websites and magazines, so many people remain confused about what they should be doing, and are too confident that what they are doing is the right thing for their heart health. Many times people come to see me after a cardiac event, already with a diagnosis of heart disease. Occasionally we are all elated when a patient who is overweight, or smokes, or has just been diagnosed with diabetes (these are all risk factors for heart disease) comes to see me and we work together to try and correct the condition BEFORE heart disease strikes. My task is to unscramble all the information and habits that have become part of the lifestyle of my patients, and rebuild, restructure and reshape health habits to keep my patients, and their hearts healthy.

Living a heart healthy life is not difficult. Getting there is another matter all together. Transitioning from complex lifestyles where people are prone to develop heart disease is not that easy – the statistics show us that!! No doubt, to change your life around to focus on your heart health will take some time and effort on your part. To understand that lives are complex and so many things can complicate our ability to make changes is essential. And to know that this transition does not have to be made on your own is crucial to your success. Over the past 11 years I have cared for literally thousands of people also wanting to make this transition. Some I have met recovering from heart surgery in the ICU at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, where I work running the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and wellness program. Others have heard about the work I do and see me for consultation in my office. But all have the same desire – to live well, to live long and productive, happy lives, and to keep their hearts healthy.

By reading this blog, you are taking your first step to your heart health. As you follow my posts, I will guide you to optimize your heart healthy lifestyle. More than that, I will give you my angle on many health issues, including many common health issues such as stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, nutrition etc. You can catch me every Monday, 6-8am EST on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 114, XM 119 – Doctor Radio, when I host a live call in show covering many of these health topics. This week I will be discussing the recall of Darvocet – a strong pain medication, interviewing a Special ops soldier injured in Afghanistan about his rehabilitation after losing his legs, and covering the latest breaking news in management of osteoporosis.

Great to have you on-board! And “cheers” to living well!

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The medical information provided is of a general nature and cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional. Consult with your physician.