Visceral fat poses grave health risks because it accumulates near vitals organs in the body such as the liver and intestines. It forms one part of a cluster of conditions known as metabolic syndrome. In conjunction with increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, visceral fat increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Losing the harmful belly is therefore essential if you want to lead a long and healthy life.
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There is a vast body of literature supporting the benefits of eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly to shrink visceral fat.
What is less understood is both the direct and indirect effects of the lifestyle factors that are often taken for granted.
Here are two lesser-known ways to reduce visceral fat:
Reduce your stress levels
High stress levels have been linked to increased visceral fat.
Studies have shown stress stimulates the body’s adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, a stress hormone.
Evidence has found that excess cortisol can increase visceral fat storage.
What’s more, ongoing stress can increase overeating, which in turn may worsen this problem, research shows.
Bolstering the association, women who already have large waists in proportion to their hips, which is a marker of visceral fat, tend to produce more cortisol when stressed, studies show.
Tips to reduce stress
According to the NHS, one effective way to manage stress, while combating visceral fat, is to become more active.
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The health site explains: “Being active can help you to burn off nervous energy. It will not make your stress disappear, but it can make it less intense.”
If making small modifications to your lifestyle, such as taking time out of your day to think about the good things in your life, do not help, you find talking to someone will help.
“Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling,” explains the NHS.
Another less obvious lifestyle factor that may curb visceral fat is to get plenty of sleep.
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Several studies have shown that a lack of sleep may increase your risk of visceral fat gain.
The reverse is true too.
Increasing your sleep may help reduce visceral fat.
A six-year study including 293 people found that increasing sleep from six hours or less to seven to eight hours reduced visceral fat gain by roughly 26 percent.
Additionally, several studies have linked sleep apnea, a condition that impairs breathing, with a higher risk of gaining visceral fat.
How to correct sleep loss
One tried-and-tested technique is to get regular sleeping hours.
The NHS explains: “Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better.”
The health site also recommends the following:
- Create a restful sleeping environment
- Make sure your bed is comfortable
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down on caffeine
- Do not overindulge
- Do not smoke
- Try to relax before going to bed
- Write away your worries
- If you cannot sleep, get up
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