By now everyone should know that carrying around extra weight puts your heart health at risk, but now, new research presented recently shows that the location of your fat is just as important as the amount of it.

European Society for Cardiology Adults (h/t consumer.healthday) reports folks with normal body mass index (BMI) and extra belly fat (termed “central obesity”) had a 79 percent higher risk of major cardiovascular events, compared to people who were mildly overweight but with normal fat distribution. This includes heart attack, stroke, and death.

Individuals with more belly fat, even with the normal or near-normal weight, have above average rates of heart disease and diabetes. They have earlier overall mortality. Small studies have shown that individuals with central obesity are more likely to have worse cholesterol values, higher markers of inflammation and even lower resting metabolic rate than those without it.

This is an area of active research. There is probably more than one factor at play.

For the most part, central obesity is associated with low relative muscle mass, a sign of poor health.

What do you do about your current waist size? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your waist is bigger than your hips -- see your doctor to discuss your heart health risk.

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