People with a lot of belly fat are at a higher risk for health problems than people who carry fat in other areas. Some of those health problems include diabetes, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease and dementia.

When men gain weight, it is most often in the form of belly fat. After menopause, women start to see more 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. Some fat around the organs provides a needed cushion, but in excess it produces hormones and other substances that increase the risk of health problems.

How do you know if you have too much belly fat? A simple measurement of the waist will tell. To measure your waist, run a tape measure around your bare midsection 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.

For men, the risk for health problems increases with a waist measurement of over 40 inches. For women, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more (some research says 33 inches or more) is a sign you need to start reducing in order to avoid health problems.

Want to lose that annoying belly fat? Exercise and eat healthy. 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.

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Start by watching portion sizes. High fat means high calories, so limit 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 22 grams as saturated fat. 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 you lose weight.