Pinching an inch, tugging at love handles or standing before the mirror in a swimsuit may reveal some of the more obvious areas we find excess fat, but not all.
Known as subcutaneous fat, while what we see and feel isn’t pleasant and many of us scramble to exercise and diet it off, subcutaneous fat does not necessarily pose the inherent health risks fat in other parts of the body does. In fact science and medicine tell us we need a certain amount of fat, or adipose tissue, to keep us healthy, specifically to access when we are hungry, provide warmth, and certainly energy (critical for athletes), and help protect internal organs. Interestingly, fat releases hormones that control metabolism. To that end it can be found in bone marrow, organs like heart, liver and kidneys, muscles and the central nervous system. This is called essential fat and storage fat.
When there is too much subcutaneous fat, it may travel and can infiltrate vital organs, which is another issue entirely, sometimes posing significant health risks by resulting in conditions like Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension (high blood pressure) and high triglycerides. Deep abdominal fat, called visceral fat (but also reportedly containing subcutaneous fat), may cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes, and also pave the way for stroke, heart disease and dementia.
Excess Fat Could Be a Health Risk
If excess fat travels to the heart, where it becomes known as ectopic fat, the heart’s function can be compromised, as can ectopic fat negatively impact the liver. In the latter, which is sometimes called “the hardest working organ in the body” for its many critical processes, NAFLD—non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—can occur when someone is overweight, has high cholesterol and/or is diabetic. As the liver filters blood coming from the digestive tract before distributing it to the rest of the body, detoxifies chemicals, controls blood sugar, facilitates menstrual cycles, metabolizes drugs and makes proteins essential for clotting among other functions, a constricted liver can be life threatening.
In the breasts, fat is considered subcutaneous, posing less risk than visceral or ectopic fat. In this respect, experts say it does not compromise one’s health though radiologists may disagree. Fatty breasts, which can occur in aging or as a result of being overweight when breast size changes, can impede what is visible in mammograms. If overweight, diet and exercise leading to weight loss can result in better evaluations.
Eye fat, conversely, is not attributed to being overweight. Known as arcus senilis and often seen in the elderly, fat develops in the periphery of the cornea without affecting vision. Also, Graves’ disease, marked by an overactive thyroid, can result in Graves’ Opthalmology where the eyes appear to bulge due to fat stores behind them. As such, the bearer may be unable to fully close the eyes so that tears can continuously moisten them. Surgery or prednisone are recommended.
How to Lose the Excess Fat
Overall, statistics show that 65.2 percent of the nation’s population is considered overweight or obese.* A diet and exercise program that facilitates safe and consistent weight loss, and a lifestyle that maintains it, is the answer to preserving and caring for our health, likely leading to fewer complications and longer, healthier lives.