What are your fitness goals for the year ahead? If you’re after a tight, trim tummy, the benefits of slimming down your waistline goes beyond a mere fitness goal. Research shows that excess belly fat puts you at risk for a number of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.

The Anatomy of Belly Fat

Belly fat comes in two different layers. The subcutaneous layer is the fatty tissue just underneath the skin’s surface. While this layer of fat is not particularly flattering, it also presents no serious harm to the health of your body. It’s the visceral fat inside the actual abdomen that poses a threat because of its proximity to your internal organs. 

While the best way to gauge your belly fat level is through calculating your body mass index (BMI), waist to hip ratio or waist circumference, it’s possible that this visceral layer of belly fat exists in people who appear to be thin. 

The Health Risks

"Abdominal fat is thought to break down easily into fatty acids, which flow directly into the liver and into muscle," Lewis Kuller, MD, DPH, professor and past chair of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health tells WebMD.

This impairs the body’s regulation of insulin, blood sugar and cholesterol leading to heart problems, according to a 2009 Harvard study.

The Solution

In order to reduce the health risks related to visceral belly fat, one must reduce his or her actual visceral belly fat—and that means losing weight. Quite simply, one must burn more calories through exercise than he or she takes in through food. 
Daily cardio, as well as ab/core work, are ideal fitness regimens to adopt. A clean diet of lean proteins, whole grains, leafy vegetables and fresh juices will also reduce the calorie count. The upside is, you’ll not only look better, but you’ll feel better and your overall health will benefit, too.