Watch Now: The Dangers of Obesity & 5 Ways to Lose Belly Fat

Excess belly fat has been linked to several chronic conditions and illnesses, says Anthony Gonzalez, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group surgeon and medical director of Bariatric Surgery Baptist Health South Florida. Different studies have found that a concentration of belly fat in overweight individuals can contribute to a higher risk for heart disease. A recent study found that belly fat can carry a higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest, which is the result of an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat irregularly. Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, which is when blood fails to circulate to the heart. Sudden cardiac arrest accounts for about half of all heart-related deaths. (Watch the video below to hear Dr. Gonzalez discuss different body types and the health risks of obesity.) Fortunately, there are many lifestyle and medical options for those seeking to lose belly fat and stay healthy. Here are five tips from Marie Almon, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health Primary Care.

1. Avoid refined carbohydrates.

You’re more likely to develop belly fat when your diet is packed with calories, refined carbohydrates and sugar, Ms. Almon says. Refined carbs include baked goods, white bread, white pasta and white rice. “Eating refined carbs leads to a  surge in blood sugar levels and insulin, which in turn increases the amount of belly fat that the body will store,” she says.

2. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods.

High-fiber diets have been linked to weight loss, and you’re less likely to overeat when you get enough fiber. A healthy diet contains a daily serving of 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams of fiber for men. “Fiber helps keep us stay full and feel more satisfied for a longer period of time,” Ms. Almon says. Food products such as brown rice and 100 percent  whole wheat are considered whole grains because those items retain the outer layer of grain, which is packed with fiber and nutrients. But those same nutrients are often stripped away from processed foods. Related story: Fiber 101: Weight Loss, Heart Health Benefits

3. Chose the right type of fatty foods.

Not all fats are created equal. Medical and dietary experts praise the health value of monounsaturated fats, which are simple fats. Mono fats help reduce belly fat, Ms. Almon says. Excellent sources of mono fats include avocados, seeds and olive oils. The American Heart  Association has linked mono fats to: • Reduction in bad cholesterol levels. • Lower risk of heart disease and stroke. • Increase in nutrients that maintain the health of cells in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids also are important in controlling belly fats, Ms. Almon says. Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.

4. Get enough sleep.

Lack of sleep upsets the normal activities of two hormones that control our appetite. Leptin is the hormone that sends the “stomach-is-full” message to the brain, and ghrelin is the hormone that sends out “eat-more” messages. But when you’re starved for sleep, those appetite-controlling hormones are thrown off balance. “Sleep deprivation can lead to weigh gain,” Ms. Almon says. “When you are sleep deprived, you tend to crave more carbs during the day–usually processed carbs such as donuts, cakes and cookies. And that’s a double whammy of too many processed carbs and too many calories,” she says. Related stories:


5. Stay active.

“Exercise is always important, and any good nutritional program should include exercise,” Ms. Almon says. Related stories:

(Watch the video below to hear Dr. Gonzalez discuss different body types and the health risks of obesity.)

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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