Just when you thought it was safe to come in off the treadmill, yet another type of fat risk rears its ugly head at our hearts sending us right back for more hours of climbing virtual mountains. The culprit this time? Pericardial or heart fat. Heart fat? Yes, my sisters -– you heard correctly -- heart fat. Heart fat! Does this mean that my heart gets fat like the rest of me? Just what is pericardial fat?
Most of us, particularly women, are familiar with subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the visible calling card left around our waists by excess weight. Personally, I refer to this type of fat as the fat that makes me look like the Stay-Puff-Marshmallow-Girl. Visceral fat is fat which is deeply buried underneath the layers of subcutaneous fat. It settles around your organs causing real damage and leading to numerous health problems, including heart disease. Visceral fat is kind of like the little brother who sneaks into the back seat and comes along on your date and you don’t know that he’s there until he pops his head up yelling –- Surprise! Of course, then it’s too late. That’s visceral fat.
Visceral belly fat is a real danger to your heart health and a leading risk factor in the development of heart disease. If you thought visceral belly fat was dangerous to your heart health, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Look to stage left -– enter Pericardial Fat.
Pericardial fat, or fat deposits around the heart, has long been thought to simply be a part of normal aging. You get older and you develop pericardial fat. Even a thin person can develop pericardial fat. Pericardial fat emits cytokines, which are an inflammatory protein. Exposure to these inflammatory cytokines leads to coronary atherosclerosis which, of course, is the leading contributor to heart disease.
A recent study conducted at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center studied pericardial fat as it related to the development of heart disease. None of the study participants had a prior history of heart disease. As a part of the study, all participants underwent a CT scan to measure their existing levels of calcified coronary plaque.