Health & Wellness

Belly fat in men: Why weight loss matters

Belly fat is unhealthy. Find out what causes belly fat, the health risks it poses for men and what you can do to lose the extra pounds.

If you’re carrying a few extra pounds, you’re not alone. But this is one case where following the crowd isn’t a good idea. Carrying extra weight — especially belly fat — can be risky.

Michael Jensen, M.D., an endocrinology specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., answers common questions about belly fat in men.

Why is belly fat a concern for men?

People who gain belly fat are at greater risk of serious health problems than are people who accumulate fat in other areas — and men are more likely than women to gain weight around the waist. Having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • High triglycerides
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

How can you tell if you have too much belly fat?

Your waist size is a good indicator of whether you have too much belly fat. Although measurements that compare your hip and waist circumference (waist-to-hip ratio) or compare your height and weight (body mass index) are more precise, your waist size alone can give you a good estimate. For most men, the risk factors for heart disease and other diseases increase with a waist size greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).

To measure your waist:

  • Place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone.
  • Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you but doesn’t push into your skin.
  • Make sure the tape measure is level all the way around.
  • Relax, exhale and measure your waist — no sucking in your belly!

Does age play a role in gaining belly fat?

As you age, you lose muscle — especially if you’re not physically active. Muscle loss can slow the rate at which your body burns calories. In turn, if you don’t limit your calories or increase your physical activity, you may gain weight.

Is belly fat inherited?

Your genes can affect your chances of being overweight or obese, as well as where you carry extra fat on your body. For most men, however, the problem likely has more to do with lifestyle than inherited traits.

Can you really get a beer belly from drinking?

Drinking excess alcohol can cause you to gain belly fat — the “beer belly.” However, beer alone isn’t to blame. Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can increase belly fat, although some research suggests wine may be an exception. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Limiting yourself to two drinks a day will reduce the amount of calories you consume and help you avoid gaining belly fat. It’s also better for your overall health.

How do you get rid of belly fat?

Whether you’re trying to lose belly fat or trim fat from another part of your body, weight-loss basics remain the same:

  • Reduce calories. Reduce your portion sizes. Replace your usual fare with healthy foods that contain fewer calories.
  • Increase physical activity. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, in addition to strength training. You may need to do more to lose weight and keep it off.

After you shed excess pounds, maintain your weight loss with a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

Can you reduce belly fat with sit-ups?

Sit-ups help make your abdominal muscles stronger, but spot exercises alone won’t specifically reduce belly fat. The best way to shrink your waist size is to lower your total body fat through healthy eating and exercise.

The bottom line

If you have a spare tire, don’t despair. You can lose belly fat — it just takes patience and effort. In fact, shedding even a few extra pounds can help you feel better and lower your risk of health problems.

By

Michael Jensen, M.D.

Health & Wellness

7 benefits of regular physical activity

You know exercise is good for you — but do you know how good? From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.

Want to feel better, have more energy and perhaps even live longer? Look no further than old-fashioned exercise.

The merits of regular physical activity — from preventing chronic health conditions to promoting weight loss and better sleep — are hard to ignore. And the benefits are yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. Need more convincing? Check out seven specific ways exercise can improve your life.

1. Exercise improves your mood.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help you calm down.

Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You’ll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can even help prevent depression.

2. Exercise combats chronic diseases.

Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent osteoporosis? Physical activity might be the ticket.

Regular physical activity can help you prevent — or manage — high blood pressure. Your cholesterol will benefit, too. Regular physical activity boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly by lowering the buildup of plaques in your arteries.

And there’s more. Regular physical activity can help you prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.

3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.

Want to drop those excess pounds? Trade some couch time for walking or other physical activities.

This one’s a no-brainer. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn — and the easier it is to keep your weight under control. You don’t even need to set aside major chunks of time for working out. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during your lunch break. Do jumping jacks during commercials. Better yet, turn off the TV and take a brisk walk. Dedicated workouts are great, but physical activity you accumulate throughout the day helps you burn calories, too

4. Exercise boosts your energy level.

Winded by grocery shopping or household chores? Don’t throw in the towel. Regular physical activity can leave you breathing easier.

Physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. In fact, regular physical activity helps your entire cardiovascular system — the circulation of blood through your heart and blood vessels — work more efficiently. Big deal? You bet! When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you’ll have more energy to do the things you enjoy.

5. Exercise promotes better sleep.

Struggling to fall asleep? Or stay asleep? It might help to boost your physical activity during the day.

A good night’s sleep can improve your concentration, productivity and mood. And you guessed it — physical activity is sometimes the key to better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. There’s a caveat, however. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you may be too energized to fall asleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might want to exercise earlier in the day.

6. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.

Are you too tired to have sex? Or feeling too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Physical activity to the rescue.

Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. But there’s more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women, and men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise — especially as they get older.

7. Exercise can be — gasp — fun!

Wondering what to do on a Saturday afternoon? Looking for an activity that suits the entire family? Get physical!

Physical activity doesn’t have to be drudgery. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a local climbing wall or hiking trail. Push your kids on the swings or climb with them on the jungle gym. Plan a neighborhood kickball or touch football game. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and go for it. If you get bored, try something new. If you’re moving, it counts!

Are you convinced? Good. Start reaping the benefits of regular physical activity today!

By Mayo Clinic staff

Health & Wellness

Men’s health: Preventing your top 10 threats

The biggest threats to men’s health are mostly preventable. Here’s what you need to know to live a longer, healthier life.

Do you know the greatest threats to men’s health? The list is surprisingly short — and prevention pays off. Consider this top 10 list of men’s health threats, compiled from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading organizations. Then take steps to promote men’s health and reduce your risks.

No. 1 — Heart disease

Heart disease is a leading men’s health threat. Take charge of heart health by making healthier lifestyle choices. For example:

  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fiber and fish. Cut back on foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Manage stress.

No. 2 — Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men — mostly due to cigarette smoking, according to the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer is followed by prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. To prevent cancer:

  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and avoid high-fat foods.
  • Limit your sun exposure. When you’re outdoors, use sunscreen.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
  • Consult your doctor for regular cancer screenings.
  • Reduce exposure to potential cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), such as radon, asbestos, radiation and air pollution.

No. 3 — Injuries

The leading cause of fatal accidents among men is motor vehicle crashes, according to the CDC. To reduce your risk of a deadly crash:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Follow the speed limit.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances.
  • Don’t drive while sleepy.

Falls and poisoning are other leading causes of fatal accidents. Take common-sense precautions, such as using chemical products only in ventilated areas, using nonslip mats in the bathtub and placing carbon monoxide detectors near the bedrooms in your home.

No. 4 — Stroke

You can’t control some stroke risk factors, such as family history, age and race. But you can control other contributing factors. For example:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations.
  • Limit the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Try to avoid trans fat entirely.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.

No. 5 — COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of chronic lung conditions, including bronchitis and emphysema. To prevent COPD:

  • Don’t smoke. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Minimize exposure to chemicals and air pollution.

No. 6 — Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — affects the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Possible complications of type 2 diabetes include heart disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage. To prevent type 2 diabetes:

  • Lose excess pounds, if you’re overweight.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.

No. 7 — Flu

Influenza is a common viral infection. While a case of the flu isn’t usually serious for otherwise healthy adults, complications of the flu can be deadly — especially for those who have weak immune systems or chronic illnesses. To protect yourself from the flu, get an annual flu vaccine.

No. 8 — Suicide

Suicide is another leading men’s health risk. An important risk factor for suicide among men is depression. If you think you may be depressed, consult your doctor. Treatment is available. If you’re contemplating suicide, call for emergency medical help or go the nearest emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

No. 9 — Kidney disease

Kidney failure is often a complication of diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment suggestions. In addition:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Limit the amount of salt you consume.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Lose excess pounds, if you’re overweight.
  • Take medications as prescribed.

No. 10 — Alzheimer’s disease

There’s no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but consider taking these steps:

  • Take care of your heart. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Avoid head injuries. There appears to be a link between head injury and future risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Avoid tobacco.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
  • Stay socially active.
  • Maintain mental fitness. Practice mental exercises, and take steps to learn new things.

Your bottom line: Take health threats seriously

Health risks can be scary, but there’s no reason to panic. Instead, do everything you can to lead a healthy lifestyle — eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking, getting regular checkups and taking precautions in your daily activities. Adopting these preventive measures will increase your odds of living a long, healthy life.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Health & Wellness

Tips for losing weight

3 simple tips for losing weight

Provided by: RealAge, Yahoo! Editorial Team

Go to sleep. Getting enough sleep every night keeps you thin. Why? When your body doesn’t get the 7 to 8 hours it needs every night, it doesn’t get a full resupply of serotonin and dopamine, two feel-good brain chemicals it craves. So it looks for ways to replenish them, and guess what immediately releases both in the body: sugary foods. That’s why when you’re tired, you start craving sweets! So tuck yourself in early and stay slim.

Keep your hands full. You’d think that sitting around playing video games, solitaire, or surfing around Yahoo! would be an invitation to putting on pounds. Nope. When your fingers are flying, they’re not knuckle-deep in a bowl of chips. Now that’s not to say that endless hours on your duff are good for anybody’s waistline, but when you keep your hands and brain occupied, you’re not reaching automatically for something to eat. In fact, you’re probably not even thinking about food. So the next time you start to open the fridge door, turn on the computer, or pick up your knitting, instead.

Pick and stick. Yeah, sure, variety may be the spice of life. But it can also be the death of dieting. When you have a lot of choices for a meal, it’s a lot easier to slip out of good eating habits and into buffet binges. One way to avoid trouble is to eliminate choices for at least one meal a day. Pick the meal you rush through most and automate it. For most people, that’s lunch. Find a healthy lunch – maybe salad with grilled chicken or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread – and have it for lunch every day. Every day. Yes, every day. The less you think about food, the easier it is to control you appetite. And decreasing choices decreases temptations.

All three tips are from two weight-loss experts: RealAge superdocs Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD, authors of the huge bestseller, YOU: On a Diet. Diabetes complications can usually be treated – even prevented – if found and treated early. Talk to your doctor about scheduling regular exams to keep your diabetes in check and complications at bay.

Health & Wellness

Nutrition

(CNN) — Aimee Katz Zipkin, the mother of a 3-year-old girl with a severe peanut allergy, has been too afraid to get on an airplane with her daughter, worried that passengers enjoying the snacks could endanger the child.

“If you so desire, take a bath in peanuts,” she said, “but if you’re 30,000 feet up and someone has an allergic reaction, then the plane is going to have to go into emergency landing in God knows where, so why would you want to take that risk?”

The U.S. Department of Transportation‘s recent proposals for improving air travel include the possibility of banning packets of peanuts to accommodate those allergic to the nuts.

“The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers against individuals with disabilities,” the proposal reads. “Airline passengers with severe allergies to peanuts have a qualifying disability.”

Health & Wellness

Alzheimer’s and you

Home care and home health-care services. By 2020, nearly 14 million people in the United States will be over the age of 85, and 84 percent of them will want to continue living at home. To do that, more than half will need assistance with daily living activities.

Seniors and family members of older relatives are looking at alternatives to assisted living and nursing homes. The best option for most is home care or home health care, where a professional caregiver goes to the home to personally look after a loved one. This may include doing laundry, picking up around the house, reading the newspaper out loud and preparing meals. Most important, this service includes companionship–someone who adds conversation and friendship to the life of an elderly person who is homebound, physically impaired, has difficulty getting around or just may be lonely.

Depending on the level of care the client needs, a licensed medical professional may be required to administer medications, offer rehabilitative therapy or provide other skilled nursing care.

Health & Wellness

Diabetic tips

At each diabetes visit

Blood pressure

Weight check

Foot check

Annually

Lipid profile (every 2 years if normal)

Dilated eye exam (every 2 to 3 years if normal)

Nerve damage

Comprehensive foot exam

Serum creatinine and urinalysis for protein, microalbumin, albumin-to-creatinine ratio to detect kidney disease

Twice a year

A1C (quarterly if not meeting goals)

Dental exam (your doctor may recommend more frequent visits)

Vaccinations

Influenza (annually)

Pneumoccal (usually once, repeat if over 64 or immunocompromised and last vaccination was more than five years ago.) 

At each diabetes visit

Blood pressure

Weight check

Foot check

Annually

Lipid profile (every 2 years if normal)

Dilated eye exam (every 2 to 3 years if normal)

Nerve damage

Comprehensive foot exam

Serum creatinine and urinalysis for protein, microalbumin, albumin-to-creatinine ratio to detect kidney disease

Twice a year

A1C (quarterly if not meeting goals)

Dental exam (your doctor may recommend more frequent visits)

Vaccinations

Influenza (annually)

Pneumoccal (usually once, repeat if over 64 or immunocompromised and last vaccination was more than five years ago.)

Health & Wellness

Fitness tips

Remember when the Boomers were all 20-somethings, with bell bottoms dragging on the ground and guitars hanging around their necks? Boy times have changed. Today, Boomers are quickly becoming a far less glamorous group: the dementia generation. Within 20 years, because of Americans’ increased longevity as well as the aging of Boomers, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is expected increase almost 40 percent across the country.

By 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the country will see 1 million new cases each year.

The coming Alzheimer’s boom bears dire implications across the spectrum of public and private life, impacting policies regarding health care, housing, retirement and transportation — and changing the future forever for an enormous number of families.

“The impact on our nation will be huge,” said Ruth Gay, Northern California chapter public policy director for the Alzheimer’s Association. “We’re already in crisis with Medicare and Medicaid funding, and now we’ll have the baby boom coming along.

“In terms of public health, if you had the bird flu virus in these numbers, we’d be allocating research funding to find a cause and a cure.”

This much is known: Alzheimer’s results from the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain, causing premature brain cell death and brain atrophy. As the disease develops, symptoms can include memory loss, confusion, aggression, delusions and withdrawal. Medication can slow the progress of the illness but cannot prevent it.

One in eight Californians 55 and older will develop Alzheimer’s, which is the state’s sixth leading cause of death. The disease causes 70 percent of all brain dementias.

But specialists know there are ways to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s — for most people, at least.

To put it simply, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, including light exercise, a moderate diet and keeping weight and blood pressure in check.

“A family history of Alzheimer’s can be relevant, but that’s not the huge risk factor people think it is,” said Dr. Shawn Kile, the neurologist who helped found Sacramento’s Memory Clinic.

Researchers have found a strong genetic link only in the 5 percent of patients who have early onset Alzheimer’s, diagnosed before age 60. Fully half of their offspring will inherit the gene.

Source: YellowBrix, The Sacramento Bee 

The baby boomers possess different characteristics from any preceding groups of that age:

Remember when the Boomers were all 20-somethings, with bell bottoms dragging on the ground and guitars hanging around their necks? Boy times have changed. Today, Boomers are quickly becoming a far less glamorous group: the dementia generation. Within 20 years, because of Americans’ increased longevity as well as the aging of Boomers, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is expected increase almost 40 percent across the country.

By 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the country will see 1 million new cases each year.

The coming Alzheimer’s boom bears dire implications across the spectrum of public and private life, impacting policies regarding health care, housing, retirement and transportation — and changing the future forever for an enormous number of families.

“The impact on our nation will be huge,” said Ruth Gay, Northern California chapter public policy director for the Alzheimer’s Association. “We’re already in crisis with Medicare and Medicaid funding, and now we’ll have the baby boom coming along.

“In terms of public health, if you had the bird flu virus in these numbers, we’d be allocating research funding to find a cause and a cure.”

This much is known: Alzheimer’s results from the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain, causing premature brain cell death and brain atrophy. As the disease develops, symptoms can include memory loss, confusion, aggression, delusions and withdrawal. Medication can slow the progress of the illness but cannot prevent it.

One in eight Californians 55 and older will develop Alzheimer’s, which is the state’s sixth leading cause of death. The disease causes 70 percent of all brain dementias.

But specialists know there are ways to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s — for most people, at least.

To put it simply, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, including light exercise, a moderate diet and keeping weight and blood pressure in check.

“A family history of Alzheimer’s can be relevant, but that’s not the huge risk factor people think it is,” said Dr. Shawn Kile, the neurologist who helped found Sacramento’s Memory Clinic.

Researchers have found a strong genetic link only in the 5 percent of patients who have early onset Alzheimer’s, diagnosed before age 60. Fully half of their offspring will inherit the gene.

Source: YellowBrix, The Sacramento Bee