How your body shape may influence your disease risk

Could the shape of your body influence your risk of disease? Many doctors think so, and a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those with a genetic predisposition toward one particular body type actually had a higher risk of conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

That body type is what physicians call “apple-shaped”— when the circumference of your belly is larger than the circumference of your hips. In other words, those who are apple-shaped tend to carry most of their weight in their middle.

Other body shapes include pear (where most weight is carried in the hips and thighs, but not the middle), hourglass (where weight is carried both up top and in the hips and thighs, with a smaller waist), and tube (where little excess weight is carried, and a person is long and lean).

Of all of these shapes, apple is the most dangerous, according to many doctors and nutritionists, including Dr. Christine Jellis, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, and Lauren Blake, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. That’s because, Blake told Fox News, apple-shaped people carry more visceral fat — which surrounds the organs — as opposed to subcutaneous fat —which lies beneath the skin.

“Excess visceral fat causes excess fatty acids to drain into the liver and into the muscles, which then triggers changes in the body,” Blake said. Those changes include an increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and other ailments, she added.

The good news is that those who would fit into the apple-shaped category can take some steps to mitigate their disease risk. Fox News talked to Dr. Jellis and Blake about some crucial tips:

1. Focus on eating whole foods
“My message is always go back to the simple things,” Dr. Jellis said, noting that people should maintain a healthy diet and focus on consuming lean meat, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

2. Stay active
Exercise is another key component in a healthy lifestyle. “Part of the reason why people accumulate abdominal fat, especially as they get older, is related to the fact that they aren’t as active as they once were,” Blake said. She recommended choosing an exercise that you enjoy, whether that’s swimming, biking, or even walking, to ensure that you stick with the plan.

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3. Don’t try to spot-treat
Focus on overall health, and don’t just try to lose weight in one part of the body, Blake said, as that is often a futile task. Instead, focus on shedding excess pounds overall.

4. Know your risk
“Unfortunately, we can’t change our genetics, so we have to work with what we’ve got,” Dr. Jellis said. Those who are overweight and carrying weight around their middle should be vigilant about diet and exercise, especially if they have a family history of these disease risks.