What Are the Health Risks of Belly Fat?

Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022
What Are the Health Risks of Belly Fat
Belly fat can lead to health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid imbalances, and even some cancers. Learn about how to lose excess abdominal fat

Excess belly fat can surround your internal organs and lead to health risks such as:

Abdominal fat cells release toxins directly into the portal circulation, which carries blood straight to the liver. As a result, these fat cells are loaded with excess triglycerides that cause free fatty acids to accumulate in the liver and other organs. This can lead to organ dysfunction and related health problems.

What are different types of belly fat?

There are two types of abdominal fat:

  1. Subcutaneous: This type of fat sits under the skin and poses no particular threat to your health.
  2. Visceral: This type of fat surrounds your internal organs and can negatively affect the way your body works.

What causes you to gain belly fat?

There are many reasons why people gain abdominal fat, including:

Lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications and regular exercise can help you manage the problem.

How do you measure belly fat?

The only precise way to measure visceral abdominal fat is through imaging tests, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging scans. 

However, you can get a general idea of how much abdominal fat you have by measuring your waist circumference:

  • Wrap a tape measure around your body above your hip bone
  • Make sure the tape measure is not too tight
  • Breathe out and check the measurement

Healthy measurements are as follows, although this may vary with age and ethnicity:

  • Less than 35 inches for a woman 
  • Less than 40 inches for a man

6 ways to lose belly fat

  1. Eat a health diet: Avoid sugar, fatty foods, and refined carbohydrates that have low nutritional content. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
  2. Reduce alcohol intake: Alcoholic beverages contain extra sugar, which can cause weight gain
  3. Exercise daily: Both aerobic exercise and strength training can help reduce excess belly fat.
  4. Reduce stress: When you are stressed, your body releases hormones that can affect your appetite and cause you to eat more. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation to manage your stress levels.
  5. Get more sleep: Sleep allows your body to rest and recover. Not getting enough sleep can affect your body’s ability to shed extra pounds. 
  6. Quit smoking: Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing excess abdominal fat and improves overall health.


The Best Diet Tips: How to Lose Weight the Healthy Way See Slideshow
Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

de Lemos J. Why belly fat is dangerous and how to control it. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. https://utswmed.org/medblog/belly-fat/

Healthdirect. How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-reduce-visceral-body-fat-hidden-fat