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Sure Signs You Have Abdominal Fat, Say Experts

Here's how to tell if you have an unhealthy amount of abdominal fat.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Abdominal fat—also known as belly fat, or visceral fat—isn't just unsightly. It's dangerous. Because of its location in the body, abdominal fat can have serious, wide-ranging effects on your health. Here's how to tell if you have an unhealthy amount of abdominal fat, and what that can mean. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

The First Sign

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The initial sign that you've gained visceral fat is an increase in your waist circumference. Your pants may feel tighter or you may have to loosen your belt a notch. To determine your waist size, use a cloth tape measure and measure at the navel.

Your abdominal fat puts you at high risk for a heart attack or stroke if your waist measures above 40 inches (for men) and above 35 inches (for women). You're at intermediate risk if you're a man with a waist size from 37.1 to 39.9 inches or a woman with a waist size of 31.6 to 34.9 inches.

RELATED: This Daily Habit May Lead to Visceral Fat

2

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

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According to Harvard Medical School, another way you can check for abdominal obesity is to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio. With your abdomen relaxed, measure your waist at the belly button. Then measure your hips at their widest point. Divide your waist size by your hip size. The chance of a heart attack or stroke rises for men when that ratio exceeds 0.95; for women, the risk increases over 0.85.

RELATED: I'm an ER Doctor and Urge You Read This Now

3

Where Abdominal Fat Lies

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The amount of fat under your skin—the kind you can grab or pinch—is called subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is deep within the abdomen, under the abdominal muscles.

RELATED: This Daily Habit May Lead to Visceral Fat

4

Why Abdominal Fat Is Dangerous

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Visceral fat is considered metabolically active. It produces hormones and inflammatory substances that raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Because visceral fat lies close to the liver and pancreas, it's believed it spills free fatty acids and inflammatory cytokines directly into those organs, increasing "bad" cholesterol, lowering "good cholesterol," preventing the body from breaking down fat, and contributing to insulin resistance.

RELATED: Ugly Side Effects of Too Many Vitamins

5

How Do I Get Rid of Visceral Fat?

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The easiest way to reduce visceral fat is to lose weight. Experts say weight loss alone can effectively reduce visceral fat; by losing 10% of your body weight, you may lose up to 30% of your belly fat. Ditch sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas and processed foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

Experts also say exercise is crucial to slashing belly fat. Moderate physical activity combined with strength training seems to be most effective. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more