A wider waist is not just a question of aesthetics. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the fat found under the abdominal wall, nested around organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. It is different and more dangerous than the type of fat you can pinch (subcutaneous fat). According to Harvard Medical School, high amounts of belly fat are associated with diseases such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and cancer. These are daily habits that reduce belly fat. Read on to learn more and to ensure your health and that of others, don’t miss these sure signs that you may have already had COVID.

1. Stay away from sugar

One of the biggest contributors to belly fat is a diet high in added sugar (especially sugary drinks) and simple carbohydrates (which quickly turn into sugar in the body). Visceral fat literally lives for sugar. “Fructose, or sugar, causes fat cells to mature faster, particularly visceral fat,” says the Cleveland Clinic. “A diet rich in soft drinks or fructose-containing beverages not only increases calorie intake, but affects how belly fat develops.” Eliminating sugary drinks and juices, refined grains, baked goods and processed foods from your routine can help slim your waistline.

2. Get lots of exercise

Diet alone isn’t enough to reduce belly fat, experts say; adding exercise is key. “Exercise appears to work on belly fat, particularly because it reduces circulating levels of insulin, which would otherwise signal the body to hold on to fat, and causes the liver to consume fatty acids, particularly nearby visceral fat stores. “says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., director of clinical physiology and research at Johns Hopkins Medicine. To burn belly fat, moderate physical activity combined with strength training seems to work best.

3. Focus on weight loss

The simplest way to reduce visceral fat is to lose weight if needed. “Weight loss alone can effectively reduce visceral fat,” says W. Scott Butsch, MD, an obesity medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. “By losing 10% of your body weight, you could lose up to 30% of your body fat.” Choose a weight loss program that works for you and is sustainable, and remember that in the battle against belly fat, it’s about steady progress, not perfection.

4. Less stress

Chronic feelings of stress cause the brain to excrete cortisol, a stress hormone that prepares the body for battle. Among other things, cortisol tells the body to retain fat around the abdomen in case it is needed. (The hormone hasn’t received the reminder that we no longer live in cave dwelling times.) Reducing stress can help your efforts to shed belly fat. Getting regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques such as mindfulness can help.

5. Get quality sleep

Researchers at Wake Forest University University found that dieters who sleep five hours or less each night put on 2.5 times more belly fat than people who sleep adequately. Experts, including the National Sleep Foundation, say you should aim for seven to nine hours a night. Not only can it help you in the battle of bloating, consistent good quality sleep can also reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. And to overcome this pandemic in the best possible way, don’t miss these 35 places where you are most likely to catch COVID.