|People with a lot of belly fat are at a higher risk for health problems than people who carry fat in other areas according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
"Some of those health problems include diabetes, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease, gallbladder problems and dementia," said Roberts.
When men gain weight, it is most often in the form of belly fat.
Women tend to carry more of their extra body fat in their arms, legs,hips and thighs. After menopause, women start to see more of the fat deposited in the abdomen.
The fat deposited deep in the abdomen around the organs, called visceral fat, is the fat that causes health problems.
How do you know if you have too much belly fat? A simple measurement of the waist will tell. For men, the risk for health problems increases with a waist measurement over 40 inches. For women, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more (some research says 33 inches) is a sign to start reducing to avoid health problems.
"It's important to note that you may have a waist circumference of 35 or 40 inches and still be within a normal weight range. With these measurements, you are still at risk," said Roberts.
To take a waist measurement, Roberts says to run a tape measure around your bare mid-section at about the level of your navel.
"You should not breathe in to make your stomach smaller or pull the tape so tight it pushes your skin down," Roberts advised.
Want to lose that annoying belly fat? Basically, you need to exercise and eat healthfully. Try to start with 30 minutes (some professionals recommend 60 minutes) per day of moderate exercise. Moderate exercise means you are doing enough to increase your heart rate.
"When doing moderate exercise, you should feel slightly out of breath and slightly worn out but not to the point where you feel like you can't stand it. A brisk walk or walking up a hill are examples of moderate exercise," said Roberts.
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Start by watching portion sizes. High fat means high calories so Roberts also recommends limiting fat intake to no more than 30 percent of total calories for the day. For the average American, that's around 65 grams with no more than of 22 grams as saturated fat.
One helpful step is before you eat anything ask yourself if you are hungry or if you are eating for another reason.
"The good news is that you can lose your belly fat. According to health professionals, belly fat is often the first fat you lose when your lose weight," Roberts said.