Body fat boosts heart risk

It's time for a little dose of reality. It's not enough to just maintain a healthy weight.

You can meet every target for weight and BMI in the book and still face heart disease, diabetes and an early death -- because your health is about more than just numbers on your scale.

It's about what you eat, and how often you remove yourself from that couch. If you eat all the wrong things and fail to get a little movement every now and then, your levels of body fat will rise even if your BMI doesn't.

And if your body fat levels rise, your risks will rise along with it no matter what the scale says.

One new study shows how senior men face a boost in death risk when their body fat levels top 25 percent. For women, the risks kick in at 33 percent -- but the risks are even higher.

Top that, ladies, and your risk of death from heart-related problems by 57 percent over 11 years, according to the study in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Excess body fat can cause hormonal imbalances, including problems with the hormones you need to control blood sugar levels. That in turn could lead to metabolic syndrome and even diabetes -- and that could happen even if your BMI is right in the middle of "normal."

There are two ways to check your own body fat levels. One is to have it measured by your doctor or with a gadget you can buy yourself and use at home (but since most work by sending a tiny electrical charge into the body, don't use them if you have any implanted devices).

But there's an even simpler way to get a rough idea, and that's the old pinch test. If you can squeeze a little too much -- or if you've got "love handles" -- then you could probably stand to drop a little fat.

The best way to do that is with a diet of lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fresh vegetables along with regular exercise.

Basic, yes. But it works.