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Even if a person is at a normal weight, if they have excess belly fat they are at a higher risk for developing heart disease.

The belly is usually the first place that someone deposits fat. People who are overweight, but don’t have excess belly fat probably have more muscle which doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease.

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Belly Fat and Heart Health

The trouble with belly fat is that it’s not just in the extra layer of padding just under the skin, or the subcutaneous fat. It’s also in the visceral fat which lies deep inside around the abdomen and surrounding internal organs.

One risk of developing excess belly fat is growing older. As someone ages, they lose muscle and if they aren’t physically active they will have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight.

More fat in the belly region indicates an irregular distribution of fat. This extra fat can put extra strain on the heart. In fact, those with a normal BMI (Body Mass Index), but high levels of belly fat are twice as likely to have a heart attack.

How do you know if you have excess belly fat? Measure your waist. For men, a measurement of more than 40 inches is considered excess belly fat. For women, more than 35 inches is considered an unhealthy measurement.

A recent study conducted by King’s College in London found that what someone eats and not just genetics determines more how fat is distributed. Therefore, to decrease the risk of heart disease, if someone has excess belly fat they should eat a heart-healthy diet, eat less calories and maintain a consistent exercise regiman.

Other Risks

Please be aware that having excess belly fat also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and respiratory problems such as asthma and sleep apnea.

In addition, you may increase the risk of dementia, migraine headaches, and premature death. Lastly, the risk of developing colorectal cancer and breast cancer in women also increases.

How to Get Rid of Belly Fat

Getting rid of belly fat seems like a daunting task, but there are four simple steps you can take. Simply put, the four keys to getting rid of belly fat are exercising, dieting, sleeping, and managing stress.

While exercise seems like an obvious answer, it actually does work. By participating in vigorous exercises, you can trim all your fat – including visceral fat.

Start by walking fast enough to work up a sweat and do so for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. To reach your goals faster, simply increase the intensity as you go along.

When it comes to dieting, there is no magic diet that will quickly get rid of your fat. However, when you start losing weight on any diet, the belly fat is usually the first to go.

Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fiber, as this specific nutrient can lower how much visceral fat you have. Some foods rich in fiber include apples, green peas, and pinto beans.

Lastly, get enough sleep (between 6 and 7 hours) and learn how to manage your stress through meditation. According to Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, exercise is the best option.

“If you could only afford the time to do one of these things,” Shively says, “exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it gets at both obesity and stress.”

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