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Signs You Need to Lose Your Visceral Fat Now

Extra fat can be seriously hazardous to your health.

Excess body weight can be a real drag on your health and longevity, but carrying fat in one area of the body is more dangerous than others. Visceral fat—also known as belly fat or abdominal fat—has been connected to a higher risk of disease and death than extra fat held in other parts of the body. 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.


Why Visceral Fat Is Dangerous

Overweight woman discussing test results with doctor in hospital.

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.

Visceral fat is considered metabolically active—it produces hormones and inflammatory substances that can cause disease like heart problems and type 2 diabetes. Because visceral fat lies close to the liver and pancreas, it can spill fatty acids and inflammation-stoking cytokines directly into those organs. Some of the effects: Increasing "bad" cholesterol, lowering "good cholesterol," preventing the body from breaking down fats, and contributing to insulin resistance.


A Waist This Size or Larger

measuring waist weight loss

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. 

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This Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Person measuring their waste line

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: Over 40? Here's How to Lose Abdominal Fat 


You're This Body Shape or Age

Body types of women

People who are apple-shaped tend to naturally accrue more fat in the abdomen than people who are pear-shaped. Additionally, women tend to accumulate more visceral fat after menopause than they do during childbearing years, which may put them at increased risk for disease.

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You May Not Necessarily Be Obese


Being overweight or obese is hazardous to your health. But carrying excess visceral fat may be harmful even if your BMI is normal. A recent study found that people who had excess belly fat had a higher risk of dying from any cause than people who carried fat around their hips and thighs—even if they were of normal weight. 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. Read more about Michael