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Reducing excessive belly fat rates top priority in any health restoration or maintenance program for many reasons, including the often-cited association with a higher risk of cardiac disease. But abdominal obesity also affects our breathing in adverse ways, creating potentially serious side effects to our health. This health condition can literally leave you short of breath.
What Defines "Abdominal Obesity?"
The American Heart Association defines abdominal obesity as a waist circumference more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men in non-Asian populations. For those of Asian descent, women's waist measurements should be less than 31 inches and men's less than 37 inches.
Pressure on the Diaphragm
In a French study reported by John Hopkins Health Alerts, researchers sampled 120,000 people, and results showed a clear connection between abdominal obesity and diminished lung capacity, regardless of any other contributing health factors. While the results didn't clearly define the cause of the reduced lung function, researchers noted that the pressure of the abdominal fat pressing against the diaphragm likely affected the lungs' ability to expand during breathing.
The Link Between Big Bellies and Poor Sleep
The American Diabetes Association cites obesity as the primary cause of obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, defined as frequent episodes of airway obstruction while sleeping, causing the afflicted to stop breathing temporarily. Not only does this condition cause poor sleep and fatigue, but studies have linked it to increased weight gain, exacerbating the primary contributing factor in what becomes a vicious cycle. The obese most likely at risk for this condition carry higher fat concentrations in their abdominal and neck areas.
Other Consequences of Abdominal Obesity
Sleep apnea contributes to the obesity problem, and a Reuters report on the same French study notes large amounts of belly fat also contribute to a group of conditions dubbed metabolic syndrome. This includes cardiac disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Large amounts of fatty tissue also increase general inflammation in the body.