Why is belly fat considered risky?

“Belly fat, also called visceral fat, is one of the more concerning types of weight gain,” explains Zayd N. Nashaat, MDInternal Medicine at ARC South 1st in this recent article in Men’s Health. “[People] with relatively normal body weight except around the belly tend to have a greater risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, liver issues, and cancer, among other health issues.”

“Specifically, waist measurements of more than 35 inches for a woman or more than 40 inches for a man indicate an increased risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

Cutting belly fat for better health

Studies have shown that weight loss is triggered by a healthier diet and maintained by exercise, Dr. Nashaat says. Recommended strategies are the same for overall weight-loss focused on lifestyle changes: eating healthier and moving more and doing it consistently.

“Dietary adherence is an important predictor of weight loss, regardless of the type of diet chosen, and lifestyle modification should be the goal rather than a short-term change,” he says. “Sustainable weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint and it is crucial to make changes that you can maintain long term.”

Begone belly fat!

Lifestyle tweaks to help reduce belly fat and improve health:

  • Reduce calories the smart way--Increase the proportion of nutritious, low-calorie foods that fill your plate and decrease foods that contain lots of calories and less nutrition. This can help you feel satisfied while also losing belly fat.
  • Eat more protein--Protein increases hormones that make you feel satiated, so you feel fuller for longer periods of time than you might with other foods.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables--They're nutrient dense and provide plenty of fiber, to promote good gastrointestinal health, Dr. Nashaat says. You’ll also get full on fewer calories.
  • Drink less alcohol—Alcohol adds empty calories and can lower inhibitions and make you reach for even more empty calories.
  • Get more exercise--To shed fat, recent research suggests that 300 minutes a week of moderate activity help with weight loss. That's twice as much as the standard 150 minutes a week that's recommended by the CDC for a serious number of health benefits, and it might take some planning. But brisk walks count toward it.
  • Add resistance training--Obese adolescents who incorporated both aerobic and strength training into their workouts lost the highest amounts of visceral fat, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.
  • Limit sugary drinks--Studies show that frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages—the leading source of sugar in the American diet—is linked to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Instead, focus on staying hydrated and drinking more water to replace any sodas, even diet ones, Dr. Nashaat adds.
  • Get your sugar from whole foods--You consume more nutrients like fiber when you consume the food in its natural form.
  • Avoid processed foods--Crackers, chips, and frozen dinners tend to have higher rates of saturated fats and higher sodium content, Dr. Nashaat says. Foods with saturated fats and high sodium content also increase your chances of having higher blood pressure, and foods that are too high in sodium can increase bloating and fluid retention, which also won’t help with minimizing the appearance of stubborn belly fat.
  • Add in healthy fats--“Healthier fats such as those found in nuts and avocados are found to produce a response that reduces inflammation (typically caused by saturated fats) and promotes a healthier cardiovascular and immune systems,” adds Dr. Nashaat.
  • Limit stress--Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is linked to a higher percent of belly fat and weight gain. In fact, people who have high levels of cortisol for long periods of time are more likely to develop abdominal obesity, according to a 2018 review of studies published in Current Obesity Reports. 

Make an appointment with Dr. Nashaat today

Want to learn more about losing belly fat? Make an appointment with Dr. Nashaat today. Book online or by calling ARC South 1st at 512-443-1311.

Tags: weight loss

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