How big does your belly have to be to harm your health?

Most of us have some belly fat. Maybe it’s a little pouch or a big bulge. But it’s there. We’re reminded every time we go to the beach or zip up a pair of pants.

Now, everyone knows that belly fat is bad. It increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. So why do we let the fat on our belly linger?

Because getting rock-hard abs takes a lot of time and energy. You have to be a hardcore gym rat and health nut to get the abs of steel you’ve seen on infomercials.

If you take a more moderate approach to health and exercise, you may still hold on to a bit of abdominal fat… even if you exercise most days and eat reasonably well.

So, the question is, when does belly fat become a problem for your health? Is a little bit worth worrying about? And what if you’re fit everywhere else but your belly? Are you still at risk?

Luckily, a recent study from the Mayo Clinic answered some of the biggest questions about belly fat…

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Clearing the confusion about belly fat

Here’s the first thing you need to know about belly fat…

It’s bad for you even if you’re fit everywhere else. In fact, the latest study from the Mayo Clinic found that people who had normal BMIs but had belly fat still had a higher risk of heart disease.

Their risk of heart disease was even higher than obese people who didn’t have abdominal fat. People with a normal BMI and a big belly had a two-fold higher risk of heart disease than people without belly fat no matter what their BMI.

What else do you need to know about belly fat?

How about… how big is too big when it comes to your belly?

Researchers say you can figure out whether your belly is too big by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference. If you get a ratio that’s .90 or above and you’re a man or .85 or above and you’re a woman, then your belly fat is worth worrying about.

Not a fan of math?

If your waist seems bigger than your hips, head to the doctor for a second opinion. It’s better to tackle your abdominal fat now before it turns into a bigger health problem.

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Battling belly fat

So now that you know whether your belly fat is dangerous or not, you’re probably wondering…

What are the best ways to get rid of belly fat that just won’t budge?

Well, you can start by:

  • Kicking up the intensity on your workouts. Research shows one of the best ways to reduce belly fat is to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Why? Researchers believe it’s because it triggers the “afterburn effect,” which means your body continues to burn calories long after you’re finished exercising.
  • Trying some strength and resistance training. Any exercise that builds muscle, will help you tackle abdominal fat. That’s because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
  • Cutting down on sedentary time. Even if you exercise daily, you may still spend a lot of the day being sedentary. The more you move, the quicker that belly fat will vanish. So, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the door, get off the train one stop early and walk — whatever it takes to get rid of dangerous belly fat.
  • Cutting out refined carbohydrates and sugar. Refined carbs and sugary foods both cause your blood sugar to spike, which triggers hormonal changes that tell your body to store belly fat. Instead of eating foods that cause unbalanced blood sugar, choose foods filled with protein and fiber, which keep your blood sugar stable and your belly trim.

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  1. A fat belly is bad for your heart — MedicalXpress. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  2. The Workout That Can Help You Lose 2 Inches Of Belly Fat — Men’s Health. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  3. Refined Carbs and Sugar: The Diet Saboteurs — Retrieved April 24, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and