You Don’t Have to Be Obese for Belly Fat to Harm You, Heart Experts Warn

overweight womanExtra padding around the belly can spell trouble for the heart, even if you’re not technically overweight.

That’s among the conclusions of a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), where experts lay out the heart risks of being “apple-shaped.”

It encourages doctors to dust off those old-fashioned tape measures and make waist circumference part of patients’ health assessments.

While obesity can raise the odds of developing heart disease, not all body fat is the same, said Dr. Ruwanthi Titano, a cardiologist and assistant professor at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

“We used to think everything is about BMI,” Titano said. “But BMI does not tell you where fat cells are in the body.”

Titano, who was not involved in the AHA statement, was referring to body mass index, which is a measure of weight in relation to height. BMI is commonly used to put people into weight categories like “overweight” and “obese,” but it is actually a crude gauge.