Visceral fat, primarily found in the abdominal cavity, is far more harmful than fat deposited in other body parts. The reason is: it causes inflammation by surrounding your organs and releasing inflammatory substances. Accumulating this dangerous form of fat around the heart could be highly damaging, especially in women.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women with significant amounts of fat around the Heart (also known as fatty Heart or pericardial fat) are twice as likely to get heart failure as those with normal amounts. And to a lesser extent, males with excess fat around their hearts are also at risk.

This article defines fatty Heart, discusses its causes, and lists potential triggers and how you can manage them.

Understanding Fat around the Heart

In addition to raising the likelihood of developing risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, a diet heavy in fat is detrimental to heart health. The worst case is having a fatty heart or visceral adipose around your Heart.

Visceral adipose tissue surrounds and impairs the performance of your internal organs, and it is found primarily in the abdominal cavity. One primary form of this adipose is pericardial: they are forms of visceral fat, also known as “belly fat” or “visceral adipose tissue. Inflammation brought on by these visceral fats can bring on a host of further health complications.

In recent years, pericardial adipose fat has come to the attention of doctors as a possible contributor to cardiovascular disease. Because of the strong correlation between pericardial fat volume and heart complications, researchers and doctors are inspired to learn more about this fatty tissue that covers the Heart and surrounds the adventitia of coronary arteries.

Who Is at Risk of Fat around the Heart

Scientists have tried to identify various variables that might aid healthcare practitioners in screening for extra fat around the Heart, which they have found to be connected to excess weight or obesity.

Image alt text: fat around the heart. Left oblique anatomy of human heart.

Author credit: By Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator – Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, CC BY 2.5,

Some studies have found that age, body fat percentage, and overall body shape are all quite good indicators of whether or not a woman is at an increased risk of developing a heavy heart and subsequent cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also study the links between pericardial fat and cardiovascular disease. They found out that body shape, body mass, and the location of the fat significantly impact heart health. A more significant number of inflammatory proteins are released from fat cells the closer they are to the Heart. Therefore, watch out for your body weight and shape and always have the proper choice diet for a healthy diet.

How Can Fat around the Heart Affect Your Heart Health?

Excessive white fat, especially visceral fat, is dangerous to one’s health. Some of the diseases and disorders that are linked to increased visceral fat risk are:

  • Stroke and heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Pregnancy complications

Visceral Fat and Heart Complications

Visceral fat is stored in and around internal organs, including the liver and the heart. It can lead to inflammation and elevated blood lipid levels, which can cause atherosclerosis, plaque buildup, or debris in the arterial walls.

The inflammation and increased lipid levels can also increase your likelihood of stroke and heart disease. Subcutaneous fat, directly under the skin, poses no such danger, but visceral fat does. Thus, the risk of cardiovascular disease is related to the location of fat in the body.

Also, because of its high metabolic activity, the fat stored around the abdomen significantly increases one’s chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

Here are three ways excess fat affects your heart health:

Shift in Cholesterol Levels: Excessive fat in the body, or obesity, is associated with an increase in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides and a decrease in HDL (“good”) cholesterol, both of which are detrimental to the body’s ability to process and eliminate LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Increased blood pressure: People who are overweight tend to have higher blood pressure because their bodies need more blood to carry oxygen and minerals. More force is required to circulate the blood throughout your body. Heart attacks, which unfortunately are more common in obese people, are often brought on by high blood pressure.

Increased possibility of developing diabetes: Diabetes prevalence is also dramatically increased in those with too much fat around their Heart or obese individual. There is a strong correlation between diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the elderly (68% or more, per the American Heart Association.

Also, hormones and other chemicals can contribute to inflammation, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels, and disruption of normal blood vessel function. So, watch out for your body fats.

Excess Fat and Pregnancy Complications

High body mass index (BMI) harms fertility because it interferes with normal ovulation. Women with normal menstrual cycles may experience longer than average delays in conceiving if their body mass index (BMI) is high. According to certain studies, an increased chance of in vitro fertilization failure has also been linked to a more significant body mass index.

So, how does having fat around the Heart affect your pregnancy?

A high body mass index (BMI) during pregnancy raises the risk of different pregnancy problems, just as it does in cases of obesity. You may experience the following:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart problems
  • Pregnancy loss: miscarriage, stillbirth, and recurrent miscarriage
  • Diabetic pregnancy or Gestational diabetes
  • Infections of the surgical wound and other problems associated with C-sections

The liver and kidneys are the most common organs to show evidence of damage during pregnancy due to high blood pressure (preeclampsia).

Babies whose mothers have a high body mass index during pregnancy are more likely to experience complications throughout their first year. They may have complications like:

  • Growth problems
  • Congenital disorders  
  • Cognitive issues

It’s not just overweight people who can get dangerously fat around their hearts. Despite being of a healthy weight and proportion, some people still experience heart failure due to an abnormally high amount of internal fat.

In other words, even if your frame is typically slim, pericardial fat can still be a health issue. Despite the correlation between obesity and abdominal fat, being underweight does not guarantee cardiovascular health.

Obesity is now known to increase the danger of developing heart failure. The findings of one study show that even in lean individuals, excess fat stores surrounding the organs might be detrimental, but of course, there are healthy obese who possess less risk. Imaging techniques revealed that pericardial fat, probably because of its proximity to the heart tissue, considerably raises the likelihood of this possibly deadly disorder.

How Do Doctors Determine If Someone Has a Fatty Heart?

Extra fat in the chest is a serious health risk often overlooked. Studies have found an association between it and other forms of cardiovascular disease, not just heart failure. No amount of observation or routine medical testing will reveal it.

Although CT scans are the gold standard for diagnosis, they are quite pricy and put patients at risk of exposure to even low radiation levels.

Regular exercise and a healthy weight-loss diet can reduce the hazards associated with excess fat in the abdominal cavity.

A large body of research suggests that physical activity benefits heart health as it helps lessen your chances of a heart complication. For instance, vigorous exercise improves cardiovascular health and burns more calories compared to moderate exercise. Interval training, when you alternate between walking and running at various speeds, is another beneficial exercise for fat loss and cardiac fitness improvement.

It has been shown that a diet high in whole fruits and vegetables can significantly lower both overall body fat, pericardial and visceral fat, which is stored deep within the abdominal cavity and puts extra strain on the Heart. Reducing your intake of processed foods can help protect your Heart because they include fewer harmful additives and less refined sugar.


The risk of developing a fatty heart should be considered secondary to the greater urgency of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Of course, someone who maintains a healthy weight and regularly engages in physical activity still has the possibility of developing fatty heart disease; however, this is highly unusual. The best action is to establish regular healthy eating and exercise routines.