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Abdominal Obesity in Men Effects More Than Belt Notches

Presence of excessive stomach fat leads to serious health issues, early death

DAYTON, Ohio (May 13, 2013) – The number of men with abdominal obesity is steadily increasing in our nation putting more men at risk for numerous diseases and even early death.

Obesity is on the rise in the United States due, in part, to our culture’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle and high-caloric diets. Weight gain for men typically means a bigger belly, and unfortunately, extra fat around the belly isn’t a good thing for the organs trying to function inside, according to Tim O’Donnell, DO, at Miami Valley Primary Care.

“We have people who are pear shaped and apple shaped. So, the ones who carry it around the belly – particularly guys – are the apple shape. It can sometimes be called visceral obesity,” said Dr. O’Donnell, who practices within the Premier HealthNet network. “Unfortunately, for gentlemen this can be a problem concerning difficulties and complications because their fat is actually stored under the skin and near the internal organs, which can cause other health problems.”

Abdominal obesity puts a man at a higher risk for cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, lipid disorders, insulin resistance, sleep apnea, acid reflux, gout, fluid retention and non-alcoholic fatty liver, Dr. O’Donnell said. And the health risks of belly fat continue to grow. Most recently Harvard University researchers unveiled a link between abdominal obesity and osteoporosis in men. A study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America found an association between higher amounts of belly fat and decreased bone strength in men.

Researchers describe belly fat as an active organ in the body - one that churns out hormones and inflammatory substances. The presence of excess fat in the abdomen, out of proportion to the total body fat, is also a predictor of morbidity, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Over one-half of U.S. adults had abdominal obesity in the period of 2003 to 2004, according to a study by NIH. The study – which compared figures among four different time periods stretching from 1988 to 2004 – also revealed that prevalence of abdominal obesity increased from 29.5 percent to 42.4 percent among men.

The causes of abdominal obesity are numerous including genetic and metabolic factors, as well as environmental contributors, such as how many calories we are consuming. The reality of abdominal obesity can be daunting, but the good news is that there is hope.

“Typically, the effects of abdominal obesity can be reversed to a degree,” Dr. O’Donnell said. “Weight loss is central to health with any of these secondary effects. So if a patient establishes a good exercise routine along with proper nutrition it can be very helpful and can help alleviate a lot of those symptoms.”

Dr. O’Donnell suggests that men begin by examining their lifestyle – both how active they are and what kind of foods they are consuming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults age 18 to 64 get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic workout – such as a brisk walk – every week. Men who are over 65 years of age and do not have limiting health conditions should strive for the same amount.

Still, exercise alone is not enough. Dr. O’Donnell challenges men to take a hard look at their caloric consumption, not only with food, but especially when it comes to drinks. For example, it is estimated that a 12 ounce soda pop contains 150 calories and up to 10 tablespoons of sugar.

Dr. O’Donnell advises men to start with small steps and to seek the advice of their primary care physician regarding the best plan for their weight loss.

View frequently asked questions about men’s health.

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