Exploring Key Health Metrics: The Importance of Visceral Fat, and Muscle Mass

Exploring Key Health Metrics: The Importance of Visceral Fat, and Muscle Mass

A continuation of identifying and measuring the biomarkers that provide us the most insight into our health. In post #2, I covered biomarkers, such as Lp(a), ApoB, fasting insulin, etc., that are critical indicators of the state of our heart but are rarely measured in annual blood tests. Today, I’d like to highlight some of the physical or anthropometric parameters, such as body weight, BMI, visceral fat and muscle mass, and how these can be very helpful, if analyzed correctly, or significantly misleading, if not. I’ll provide an example of my own numbers at the time of my diagnosis with heart disease versus my numbers today, so as to make the point more clearly.
Body weight encompasses all the components that make up your body – muscles, bones, organs, fat, water, and other tissues. However, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a more widely used tool to gauge whether your weight is proportionate to your height. However, while BMI can offer an initial insight into your body composition, it doesn't consider the distribution of these components in your body. I want to hone in today on 2 specific markers: visceral fat and muscle mass. Visceral fat, located around internal organs, is associated with an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, etc. (subcutaneous fat on the other hand is a significantly less dangerous version of fat). Muscle mass refers to the amount of muscle tissue in your body and is typically measured as a percentage of your total body weight. Having a healthy amount of muscle mass is important for better metabolism, improved insulin resistance, reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures, and improved mobility as we age.

My BMI at the time of my diagnosis was 22.1 (the healthy range of BMI for Caucasians is 18.5 to 24.9 while for South Asians is 18.5 to 23.5). However, my visceral fat was 11 (the healthy range is 2 - 9) and my muscle mass was 65% (anything above 35% - 40% is considered healthy). If I based my healthiness on the basis of BMI alone, I would be considered healthy, but adding in my visceral fat suggested that I was an example of “skinny” fat; thin on the outside but fat on the inside. I want to clarify that this doesn’t mean visceral fat caused my heart disease but rather that it was a marker that was tracking with it and had I been looking for it all along rather than just my BMI, I would have figured out something was wrong pretty early on. Today, my BMI is 21.2 but my visceral fat is at 3 and my muscle mass is at 81%. This paints a much healthier picture.

In a future post, I will provide details about the interventions I undertook to achieve this on the diet side of things but on the exercise side, it included strength training 4 times a week, cardio 2 times a week, and walking for 15 minutes after each meal. So measure your visceral fat and muscle mass % and hope you can follow these interventions! 
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Neeraj Choudhary: Keep going Nickhil Jakatdar. Diagnostics is a huge part of keeping folks out of an already burdened healthcare system worldwide. Thank You!

Nickhil Jakatdar: Thanks Neeraj. As the cliche goes….an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound or actually many dollars worth of cure!

Neeraj Choudhary

Sundeep Vig: Very informative. Looking forward to your intervention post!

Sundeep Vig

Usha Srinivasan: Maya Bunyan pass on to Moshe

Usha Srinivasan

Olesya K: Thank you for sharing!

Olesya K

Hemant Joshi: Super useful ! Thanks for sharing.

Hemant Joshi

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