It’s time to ditch your pyramid-shaped T-shirts and face the facts: Your love handles could be killing you.
Mayo Clinic researchers have now discovered that—even if your body mass index (BMI) is normal—a little extra padding around the middle could still increase your risk of death.
In the study, presented at a European Society of Cardiology meeting, researchers compared the size of the waist and hips—aka waist-to-hip ratio—of 12,785 Americans. Normal weight people with excess belly fat were more than twice as likely to die than people with a normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. They were even worse off than obese people.
So why are love handles so dangerous? The researchers suspect that belly fat acts differently than fat in the legs or butt, producing hormones that can eventually lead you down the road to heart disease and diabetes.
If you’re concerned about your love handles, stop trying to hide them, and ask your doctor to measure your waist-to-hip ratio—and talk to you about your true risk of heart disease—at your next visit.
And in the meantime? It’s tired, but true, advice: More exercise and healthier eating should help reduce those love handles to a sexier size.