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Where You Carry Your Fat Matters to Your Health

Your degree of risk for developing weight-related health problems depends on how overweight you are and where you store your excess fat. Body fat that accumulates around the stomach area poses a greater health risk than fat stored in the lower body.

The benefits of trimming down aren’t just cosmetic. Even a small reduction in your weight can improve many of the health problems associated with being overweight — not to mention boosting your self-esteem.

Typically prone to pot bellies, beer bellies, and apple shapes, men build up fat in the stomach area. Women are more prone to fat collecting around the hips, buttocks, and thighs, developing saddlebags or a pear shape.

The following figure shows an example of each body type. People with apple shapes are more apt to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer than are those who have pear shapes.

Overweight men tend to be shaped like apples, but overweight women tend to be pear shaped.
Overweight men tend to be shaped like apples, but overweight women tend to be pear shaped.

For the most part, becoming an apple or a pear when you gain weight is an inherited tendency. Women are naturally predisposed to store fat in their lower bodies for use as energy during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Yet, when women go through menopause, they tend to change from pears to apples. However, your gender and age may play only a partial role. Smoking and drinking too many alcoholic beverages seem to increase fat accumulation in the stomach area in both men and women.

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