Visceral fat in the heart is called iacdinal adipose tissue. The thick muscular layer of the heart muscle and the thin sac that surrounds it are located between it. Visceral fat is under your skin and can cause health problems.

EAT is associated with a number of heart conditions. Weight loss and certain medications can lower EAT levels.

“The fat is made up of free fat acids. The key to your heart’s metabolism is the amount of the fat in your body. They help keep the heart at a healthy temperature.”

This layer of visceral fat can also protect the coronary arteries. A 2017 review of previous research also suggests that EAT secretes molecules called cytokines that regulate the function of the arterial walls, blood clotting, and inflammation.

Too much of a good thing can be harmful. Inflammation in the heart can be increased by high levels of EAT.

And because the visceral fat is right next to the myocardium, there is an increased risk of myocarditis, inflammation of the myocardium. According to a 2022 study, myocarditis is a major risk factor for arrhythmia.

In a separate 2022 study, researchers suggest that the buildup of EAT can cause your coronary arteries to narrow. This increases your risk of coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease. The study notes that as EAT levels rise, your body responds to the release of anti-inflammatory molecules by producing more pro-inflammatory molecules.

A 2017 report also notes that the EAT buildup isn’t just a risk factor for heart disease. It’s also a consequence. Damage to your heart can allow more adipose tissue to collect within the heart’s layers.

For people with type 2 diabetes, high levels of EAT may be particularly dangerous. Diabetes is an independent risk factor for heart disease, but greater EAT thickness may elevate the risk.

A 2020 study suggests that excess EAT tends to be more common in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The study also notes that this type of visceral fat is also associated with atherosclerosis (plaque buildup that narrows your arteries) and cardiovascular events, such as heart attack.

A 2022 study of more than 700 people also linked high levels of EAT with a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 with cardiac complications.

If you have diabetes or have been diagnosed with arrhythmia, your doctor may not look for high levels of EAT. Your doctor can determine if you have high levels of EAT using various types of cardiac scans.

One commonly used and relatively low cost screening is transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). TTE uses sound waves to create computerized images of the heart and the network of blood vessels in the chest.

A standard CT scan or MRI may also reveal how thick EAT is in the heart. The greater the thickness, the higher the likelihood of complications.

A 2016 study of more than 100 adults suggests that the average EAT thickness in healthy people with no cardiac conditions was about 4.4 millimeters (mm). The average thickness for people who develop acute coronary syndromes (complications from reduced blood flow to the heart) was about 6.9 mm.

If your doctor determines that you have too much food and you are overweight, they may advise you to lose weight by exercising and eating a balanced diet.

Medications, such as GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors, may be prescribed to help reduce EAT levels. Doctors usually prescribe these medications to help treat diabetes and obesity.

If you have reduced your EAT thickness, your doctor can use further scans to check. Some of the consequences of excess EAT can be reversed by combining medications and a lifestyle that promotes health.

“Excess EAT can pose risks to your heart health, even if you can’t see epicardial adipose tissue.”

If you have too much fat around your heart, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce it and other ways to protect your heart.