Did you know that there are two kinds
of belly fat? The first kind, subcutaneous belly fat, is what probably comes to mind when you think of body fat. It sits just under the skin.
The second kind is found deeper inside the abdomen and surrounds the heart, lungs, liver and other organs. This second type of fat, called visceral fat
, helps cushion the organs and can be found even in thin people.
But too much visceral fat can lead to health issues, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, breast cancer and colon cancer. When a person gains too much weight, visceral fat begins to appear in unusual places in the body. Once the body's regular fat storage areas are full, the excess fat gets deposited into the organs and around the heart.
The best way to measure your visceral fat is to get a CT scan or an MRI, but there's a much simpler way to check it yourself. Use a measuring tape to check your girth by wrapping it around your waist at the belly button. Be sure to stand up straight and keep the measuring tape level. A healthy waist size for women is 35 inches or less, and for men, 40 inches or less.
Keep in mind that visceral fat thrives on inactivity, so thin people who don't exercise can also have too much of it. Even if you're not very heavy, excess fat around your waistline can signal a deeper health issue.
So what's the best way to beat visceral fat? In a nutshell, exercise, diet, sleep and stress management.
Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But don't just be active during exercise — incorporate moderate activity into your daily life. Play with your kids, take a family bike ride, mow the lawn — do whatever it takes to get your heart pumping.
A high-fiber diet comprised of whole foods like fruit, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains can help fight visceral fat buildup.
It's important to get the right amount of sleep — not too little and not too much — to maintain overall health and fight belly fat. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Stress is a part of life, and how you handle it can significantly affect your health. It's important to relax with loved ones, meditate, exercise and go to counseling in order to manage stress and blow off steam.