Storing fat around the belly is common, particularly as people age. The two types of fat are subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat lies beneath the skin, and visceral fat is the deeper fat surrounding the internal organs.
Visceral fat is more harmful than subcutaneous fat and increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
This article explains why fat accumulates around the belly and provides tips on how to lose excess fat.
Genetics, lifestyle choices, and hormonal changes may contribute to belly fat accumulation.
Some peoplemay be genetically predisposed to store fat in certain areas, such as the abdomen, hips, or thighs.
- Hormones: Hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), can influence where the body stores fat. For example, an imbalance in insulin levels can lead to fat accumulation around the abdominal area, while sex hormones can
affect fat distributionin gender-specific ways.
- Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, a diet that lacks essential nutrients, high stress levels, and inadequate sleep can all
contributeto increased belly fat.
It is common for people to store more fat around the belly as they get older. As people age, hormones change, and weight tends to
Excess belly fat is a major health concern because it links to a higher risk of various chronic diseases,
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- type 2 diabetes
- certain types of cancer
- decreased quality of life
According to the
People can assess their body fat distribution by measuring their waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). To do this, use a measuring tape around the narrowest part of the waist and the widest part of the hips. Then, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.
According to a 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) Consultation Report, a higher WHR indicates more belly fat and potentially increased health risks. The report suggested that some men with a WHR of 0.95 or higher are at greater risk. For some women, the report considered a WHR of 0.85 or above as high risk.
While there is no single solution to losing belly fat, there are several things a person can do to reduce it.
One of the most important things a person can do to lose belly fat is to adopt a healthy and balanced diet. This means focusing on whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Limiting sugary and processed foods is also important, as these can contribute to belly fat accumulation. Reducing refined carbohydrates and increasing consumption of healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, can also help promote weight loss and reduce belly fat.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to health problems, including excess belly fat. Incorporating regular exercise into their daily routine can help a person lose belly fat.
Read about losing weight safely.
In addition to diet and exercise, several other lifestyle tips can help people lose belly fat, including:
- Get enough sleep. Aim for
7–9hours of sleep per night.
- Manage stress levels. Stress can
increasecortisol levels and subsequent weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. Finding ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or spending time outdoors can help.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluid can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss.
- Avoid smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can contribute to belly fat accumulation. If people smoke, quitting and limiting alcohol intake can help with belly fat and overall health.
Learn more about why smoking is bad for health.
If a person is having difficulty losing excess belly fat despite following a balanced, nutritious diet and exercise routine for several months, they may wish to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
Sometimes, underlying medical conditions, such as hormonal imbalances or certain medications, can contribute to belly fat accumulation. A doctor may suggest tests to rule out an underlying condition.
Excess belly fat is common, particularly as people age. It has associations with various chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
People can take steps to lose belly fat and improve overall health. Steps involve eating a nutritious, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.