Beer belly, spare tire—call it what you want. But if you have excess weight around your midsection, experts say that extra fat is no laughing matter. In fact, it’s hazardous to your health.
Fat accumulation around the waist is more common in men, and it raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, insulin problems and sleep apnea. It also makes you more likely to develop metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that includes high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels—which increases your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.Why belly fat?
Carrying excess weight anywhere is unhealthy, and while researchers are unsure what it is about belly fat that makes it more risky, they do think that cells in these fat deposits trigger insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for diabetes. The cells also may cause inflammation, which can raise your heart disease risk and negatively impact blood pressure, clotting and cholesterol. Are you at risk?
Measuring your waist can give you some clue about your risk. Put a tape measure snugly—but not too snug—around your bare belly, just above your hipbone, ensuring that the tape measure is level and you’re not sucking in your belly. For men, a waist bigger than 40 inches raises disease risk.
In some men, heredity may dictate where they accumulate their fat. Age also plays an important role, as the body loses its ability to burn calories more efficiently. However, most men can blame their belly fat on poor diet and exercise habits.Banishing belly fat
When it comes to losing excess abdominal weight, the tried-and-true methods are most effective. That means regular exercise and a healthy diet:
- Exercise. Ask your healthcare provider about creating a safe and efficient exercise regimen based on your individual needs. Most effective weight-loss programs consist of strength training, such as lifting weights, and no less than 30 minutes of moderate activity daily, such as brisk walking. Spot training with exercises such as sit-ups, while beneficial for strengthening abdominal muscles, doesn’t really do much to get rid of belly fat.
- Diet. Cut calories and fat by watching your portion sizes, replacing saturated and trans fats with healthier poly- and monounsaturated fats (found in sources such as olive oil), and choosing complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. If you’re a beer aficionado, indulge in no more than two drinks a day. And be aware that drinking large amounts of almost any alcohol can give you that beer belly.