Surprise: Everyone has some belly fat, even people who have flat abs. That's normal. But too much belly fat can affect your health in a way that other fat doesn't.

You need some visceral fat. It provides cushioning around your organs. But if you have too much of it, you may be more likely to get high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer.

Adults who drink a couple cups of coffee a day — unsweetened or with a spoonful of sugar — are less likely to die during a seven-year follow-up period, a study showed.

4 Steps for Beating Belly Fat 1. Exercise: Vigorous exercise reduces visceral fat. 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week. Walking counts if you sweat and breathe harder, with a quicker heart rate.

2. Diet: There's no belly-fat magic diet. Any diet will reduce belly fat initially. Fiber helps. Hairston's research showed that eating 10 grammes of soluble fibre per day reduces visceral fat over time. Two apples, a cup of green peas, or a half-cup of pinto beans will do.

3. Sleep helps. In one study, participants who slept 6 to 7 hours each night accumulated less visceral fat over 5 years than those who slept less or more. Sleep wasn't everything, but it helped.

4. Everyone experiences stress. Your response matters. You can relax with friends and family, meditate, exercise, and obtain counselling. You're healthier and more able to make wise decisions.

“If you could only afford the time to do one of these things," Shively says, "exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it gets at both obesity and stress.”