1. Too much body fat = too much risk

    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.

  2. Obese people more likely to be hospitalized

    Play the heavy and you may head for the hospital

    No one wants to be hospitalized -- but millions of people are heading there anyway, whether they know it or not.

    They're eating their way right into the ER.

    We know that people who are fatter tend to be sicker. We know they have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and an early death. And it makes sense that they'd spend more time in the hospital as a result.

    And now, a new study shows how every extra pound ups that risk of being hospitalized -- and if this doesn't give you a direct incentive to lose some weight, I don't know what will.

    It starts with a single point on the BMI chart -- one point beyond normal and into "overweight." That one point, maybe not even noticeable on the waistline, will increase your risk of being hospitalized by 4 percent.

    If you're just a point overweight, it's up to you to decide if you want to live with that risk or drop a few pounds and bring it back down to where it should be. But many people can only dream about being just one point too heavy -- and for them, the increase in risk is even higher, because every point on the BMI chart increases that risk by another 4 percent.

    So if you're five points too heavy, your risk of being hospitalized is 20 percent higher -- not small at all. And if you're 10 points over the line, you're 40 percent more likely to end up in the hospital.

    The study in the International Journal of Obesity didn't find a single reason for all these extra hospitalizations. More like a list of reasons -- and not coincidentally, it's all the diseases and conditions that tag along with obesity, including diabetes, heart disease, chest pain, asthma, and arthritis.

    With two thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, that means a lot of people are going to be hospitalized as some point -- but if there's any good news here, it's that the study points to the easiest way yet to stay out of the hospital: lose the weight.

    Some people can commit to lifestyle changes on their own and bring themselves down to a normal weight. Others need help -- and if that's you, don't be afraid to ask for that help. A holistic doctor like me can provide you with a comprehensive and personalized weight loss plan that will work.

    And for one way NOT to lose weight, keep reading.

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