The faster you get rid of belly fat, the faster you will cut your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Excess abdominal or belly fat means a higher risk of cancer and heart disease.

A report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (July 2013) explains that where you carry extra fat makes a big difference, and excess fat in the stomach poses a greater threat of cancer and heart disease than if it’s concentrated in the thighs.

The JACC study used CAT scans to measure abdominal fat. The body mass index (BMI) does not differentiate location of excess fat.

This study sought a link between location and risk factors for cancer and heart disease.

Even after adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers found that excess belly fat was linked to higher incidence of cancer and heart disease.

The paper states that the presence of excess belly fat improved the predictability of cardiovascular disease.

Why Excess Belly Fat Is Linked to Heart Disease

“Belly fat/waist size is part of the criteria for metabolic syndrome which has clear association with both diabetes and cardiovascular risk,” says Yaser Elnahar, MD, a cardiologist with Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates in NJ.

“Associations in medicine is very common. Proving direct causality is obviously not as easy.

“Hence, not every obese person has heart disease, and likewise, not every skinny person has a normal heart. It doesn’t work that way.”

Another way to look at this is that the obese person who has a normal heart is still at much increased risk for acquiring heart disease in the future, especially if there’s a lot of fat in the midsection.

Dr. Elnahar explains, “Belly obesity is associated with metabolic syndrome/DM [diabetes mellitus], which means you have a higher chance of developing diabetes.

“DM is considered a coronary artery disease risk equivalent. Meaning, if you have DM, you have a similar risk of developing heart disease when compared to someone who has already known heart disease.”

Best Way to Lose Belly Fat

When I was a personal trainer at a gym, one of the most common questions I was asked was: “What’s the best way to lose belly fat?”

The first way is high intensity interval training instead of steady state aerobics.

The second way is to strength train — intensely — and to do mostly exercises that target the legs, back and chest, such as the squat, deadlift and bench press, respectively.

Incline bench press.

By targeting the body’s biggest muscles, you will create the biggest energy deficit (for post-workout recovery).

When the body is in an energy deficit, it pulls from fat reserves — as long as you don’t overeat and as long as you DO stick to a plant-based diet and control your portions, which is the third way to lose belly fat.

Dr. Elnahar has publications in the Journal of Atrial Fibrillation, the Journal of Clinical Medicine and Research, Reports in Medical Imaging, and more.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image:, yanalya.