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.

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Genetics, lifestyle choices, and hormonal changes may contribute to belly fat accumulation.

  • Genetics: Some people may 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 distribution in gender-specific ways.
  • Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, a diet that lacks essential nutrients, high stress levels, and inadequate sleep can all contribute to 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 increase. Fat distribution also changes, meaning people may have more fat around the trunk and less in the arms and legs.

Learn more about the causes of belly fat.

Excess belly fat is a major health concern because it links to a higher risk of various chronic diseases, including:

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, obesity is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Learn more about obesity and its causes.

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.

Read more about WHR.

While there is no single solution to losing belly fat, there are several things a person can do to reduce it.

Dietary changes

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.

Regular exercise

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.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. This can include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or running.

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 7–9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Manage stress levels. Stress can increase cortisol 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.