A Surprising Way to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Did you know that belly fat, that excess fat around your middle, is one of the primary causes of death in the United States?
It may be hard to believe, but research has shown that having a spare tire is one of the biggest predictors of heart disease. In fact, belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is a major cause of heart disease, hardening of the arteries, stroke, and diabetes.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Visceral fat is a direct cause of many diseases that can destroy your life and kill you.
In today’s article I’m going to share with you a few tips for helping you not only lose some of that belly fat, but also help you keep it off. Forget about fad diets and ab workouts. I’m going to give you the scientifically-proven ways to safely take the fat off and keep it off.
What Exactly is Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat is different from the fat that lies just under the surface of your skin, which is called subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat gets deep into your body and can surround your heart, liver, stomach and other major organs. It’s the fat that gives men that “beer belly” look.
You might think fat is just an inert “filling” that increases your waist size. The truth is, fat is a very active substance. Fat cells produce hormones that affect your liver, heart, brain, and immune system.
These hormones also affect how much fat you store and burn, and how much food you eat.
The sad truth is that the more visceral fat you have, the more likely you are to store more visceral fat. So you have to take steps to turn your situation around.
Find Out How Much Belly Fat You Have
The first thing you need to do is evaluate how much visceral fat you have. Don’t try to guess. You’re going to need to measure.
There’s an easy way to find out how much fat you’re carrying around your middle. Simply get a tape measure and wrap it around your waist, over your belly button. Do this while you’re standing, and make sure the tape is directly against your skin. Write down that number.
Next, wrap the tape measure around your hips. Write down that number.
The next step involves a little math - but it’s simple. Just divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
If that ratio is less than 0.90, you’re in the safe zone. If it’s 0.90 or higher, you’ve got too much visceral fat.
How much fat you’re packing is partly due to your genetics, and partly due to your lifestyle, especially your activity level. You can’t control your genetics, so you’ve got to make smart lifestyle choices.
If you want to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a lot of other diseases, it’s critical to lose as much belly fat as possible.
Here are some tips to make slimming your waistline a little easier:
Get Some Regular Moderate Exercise
I know that we’re all looking for a magic fix for our problems. But the truth is study after study shows that fad weight loss solutions don’t work.
What does work - and has been proven time and time again - is regular, moderate exercise. Exercise is the number one way to shed that unwanted flab.
Normally, general exercise will begin to reduce your waistline before it shows anywhere else on your body. Shedding belly fat doesn’t mean you need to have six-pack abs. It just means becoming less puffy around your midsection.
Moderate exercise doesn’t mean jogging miles around your neighborhood or spending hours at the gym. All it means is doing something enjoyable that gets your heart rate up for about a half-hour a day. It can be something as simple as taking a walk around the block, riding a bicycle, or doing some yard work.
Just make sure you’re doing some kind of moderate exercise at least three days a week. Over-exercise is a problem because it ends up increasing stress hormones and working against you. In fact, over-exercise can actually increase fat deposits!
So I strongly recommend against long distance running or other sustained cardio exercise. Instead, opt for more frequent moderate exercise like walking.
Watch What You Eat
Watching your food intake is just as important as exercise in losing belly fat.
Getting enough fiber in your diet is important. A recent study showed people who ate 10 extra grams of daily fiber, without any other diet changes, had less buildup of belly fat than the control subjects. That can be as simple as eating a half-cup of pinto beans, two small apples, or a cup of green peas.
A study in the journal Diabetes Care found that diets with lots of monounsaturated fats slowed or prevented the buildup of belly fat. Here are a few foods high in monounsaturated fats:
- Nuts, including pecans
In general, look to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. You don’t have to make major dietary changes overnight. Instead, just add some healthier food choices on a daily basis.
Get Enough Sleep
Researchers have found that belly fat has four times as many cortisol receptors as other kinds of body fat. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is produced if you don’t get enough sleep.
Most adult males need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Getting less triggers the release of cortisol.
It’s no surprise to find that men who get too little sleep have too much visceral fat. The good news is that the solution is an easy one - sleep enough!
Manage Your Stress
Everyone has some stress in their lives. It becomes a problem when you let it overwhelm you on a regular basis.
Remember, cortisol is the stress hormone produced when you’re stressed. Cortisol receptors store fat released by your body as a stress response. Since your belly fat contains lots of cortisol receptors, you may gain fat in your midsection when you are overly stressed.
Here are a few ways to reduce stress:
- Get lots of laughter in your life.
- Take a 10-minute mental break every day and quiet your mind.
- Moderate exercise will help reduce stress levels.
- Spend time with people you like.
Researchers say that if you only have time to focus on one of the above tips, exercise probably offers the most benefits. Why? Because it deals with stress and belly fat at the same time. Besides exercise, even if you’re short on time you can always focus on getting a better night’s sleep.
The bottom line is with a little effort on your part you can cut back on your belly fat. This will help prevent a host of serious medical problems, and it just might save your life.