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Men’s Mid- Abdominal Fat- The Beer Belly Syndrome

Darshan Shah, MD is CEO Medical Director of Beautologie Medical Group and a Bakersfield and Fresno Plastic Surgeon specializing in breast and body surgery.

Milan Shah, MD is the director of Beautologie Medspa and Aesthetic Medicine Specialist in Bakersfield, CA.

Beer BellyThe beer belly, it’s a man’s curse.   It starts in our thirties, and then grows like a uncontrollable tumor for the next 30 years with every frosty cool one.  But the beer belly is more than just an unsightly problem that forces us to go up in belt sizes.  It can be a sign of hidden killers lurking inside.

Recent studies have shown that men are much more likely to gain weight around the waist more than women.  Weight gain in this specific area (called visceral fat) is correlated with severe health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, high triglycerides, sleep apnea and even cancer.  A recently published Harvard article showed that men with increased abdominal girth are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

Why does the beer belly phenomenon occur?  There are two main reasons: 1) as men age, our mid abdominal muscles weaken and lose mass.   This causes intra-abdominal contents (your intestines and organs) to push outwards and 2) men have a large omentum (the fat that is wrapped around your intestines to protect them), which tends to gain mass more rapidly than the fat else where in our bodies.  The combination of weak muscles and increased intra-abdominal mass pushing outwards gives the abdomen the appearance of a round, bulging beer keg.

The best way to test if you have too much belly fat is something you can easily do at home- measure your waist just above your hipbone.  If your waist diameter is over 40, you are at higher risk for any of the above health concerns.

The key to understanding what to do about this problem is having a good knowledge of what causes it in the first place.  Although genetics has a minor role, the rapid gain in intra-abdominal fat in our 40’s is due to slowing metabolism, increased alcohol intake, and high caloric diets.  Combine this with a lack of exercise and core strengthening, and you have the perfect recipe for a new size 42 belt!

Here is a simple three-step program to reduce your risk of serious health concerns, and get into shape before the summer swimming pool season:

Step 1:  Reduce Calories.  The best way for men to do this is portion control.  Take half your dinner order home for lunch the next day, use a smaller plate, share your food, and replace calorie dense foods with healthier veggies and proteins.  And, yes, drink less beer.

Step 2: Increase your physical activity.  Most days we don’t realize how sedentary we are.  The Nike Fuel Band is something I use to keep my activity level on track!  I set a goal for 3000 Fuel points a day, and If I am not there by the end of the day, I go for a walk with the dog before dinner.

Step 3: Sit-ups.  No way around it.    You need to tighten those mid abdominal muscles by working your way up to 100 sit ups a day.

It takes hard work, discipline and deduction, but the benefits are doubled:  you get to wear slim fit jeans and reduce your chances of serious health disease in the future!