Struggling With Belly Fat? Prioritizing These Health Factors Can Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

There are a number of factors that contribute to a person’s risk for heart disease, and belly fat is one of them. New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsought to find out how those with excess belly fat can lower their risk and protect their heart. Here’s what to know.

Studying belly fat, heart disease & healthy lifestyles

For this study, researchers wanted to know if adhering to a healthy lifestyle could help people modify their waist-to-hip ratio (a measure of abdominal obesity and metabolic health) and risk of coronary heart disease.

Before we get into numbers from the study, as a refresher, excess fat around the waist is linked to a cascade of negative health effects.

As integrative medicine doctor Sara Gottfried, M.D., previously wrote for mindbodygreen, “You create more inflammation and oxidative stress [with excess belly fat], and promote even more fat storage. The result is a vicious cycle of hormonal misfires, symptoms, and disease that will drag you down unless you flip the switch.”

Looking at data from over 280,000 people using the UK Biobank study, the researchers assessed participants’ genetic risk for high waist-to-hip ratio, as well as five healthy lifestyle factors, including:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Not smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Not drinking alcohol or drinking in moderation
  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night

Throughout the follow-up median of 13.8 years, there were over 11,500 incidences of coronary heart disease—and a healthy lifestyle proved to be effective in reducing that risk.

Namely, those who stuck to four to five of these aforementioned healthy lifestyle factors had a 25% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who did not. Further, the study authors note that those healthy lifestyle factors were effective in reducing risk even among participants who were genetically predisposed to a high waist-to-hip ratio.

What to do about it

Whether you’re struggling with stubborn belly fat or you just want to reduce your risk for heart disease, these findings offer five concrete steps you can take to stay healthy.

As the study authors write, “Individuals who have high or medium genetic risk of abdominal obesity but adhere to a healthy lifestyle may have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared with those who have low genetic risk and an unhealthy lifestyle.”

So, when in doubt, don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation (fewer than three drinks per week, according to this study), get regular physical activity, prioritize sleep, and eat a nutritious diet filled with heart-healthy ingredients.

The takeaway

Minding excess weight around your belly is about so much more than aesthetics or having a six-pack; it can actually help reduce your risk of heart disease. New research reaffirms that at the end of the day, going back to the basics of a healthy diet and lifestyle are the best things you can do for your heart and overall well-being.

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4 Responses to Struggling With Belly Fat? Prioritizing These Health Factors Can Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

  1. Adegbola Opeyemi January 4, 2024 at 8:23 pm

    Well noted

  2. Maryam January 8, 2024 at 6:59 am

    Taking notes

  3. Iyanuoluwa Isinkaye January 8, 2024 at 8:11 am

    Thank you!

  4. Rachael January 9, 2024 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks for this


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