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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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.

Please be aware that having excess belly fat also increases the risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Respiratory problems including asthma and sleep apnea
  • Dementia
  • Migraine headaches
  • Premature death
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer (in women)