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Belly Fat Something to Control
By Lois Thomson


Susan ZikosIt can sneak up on you slowly, almost without warning.  If left unchecked, it has the potential to cause all types of problems.  "It" is belly fat in men (and women), and it comes with a host of dangers and risks to your health, as Susan Zikos, a dietician and certified diabetes educator at Ohio Valley Hospital, explained.

"Generally starting from age 30, as we become less active, the body maintains less muscle and it starts turning to fat.  We all have two layers of fat, and the layer that's on the outside of the body is good, it helps protect the body and the internal organs.  But the visceral fat that is stored around the organs shows up as belly fat, such as fat you see protruding over your belt, and that fat can cause many different problems."

Those problems may include risks of cardiovascular disease; insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes; sleep apnea; and high blood pressure.  Belly fat can contribute to high cholesterol and fat levels in the blood, and can also cause inflammation in the body that may lead to increased chances of arthritis.

Susan Zikos, dietician and certified diabetes educator at Ohio Valley Hospital, said a benchmark used for men having too much belly fat is a waist measurement of more than 40 inches. "If somebody measures their waist and it's greater than 40 inches, that's a warning. Or if your belly is protruding over your waist, that is a definite sign that something is wrong."

For those reasons, losing weight and keeping it off is particularly important.  Zikos said, "As we age, we need fewer calories.  One estimate suggests a 60-year-old needs 200 fewer calories a day than a 30-year-old.  That's because we generally lose muscle tissue as we grow older, even if we continue to exercise."

She added that studies have shown losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can make a difference in your health.  "That means that if a 200-pound man loses 5 percent of his body weight, he gets down to 190 pounds.  That is going to improve a lot of different things, like blood sugar controls – even if he's not diabetic, a lot of people can be pre-diabetic if they're overweight or obese.  Losing weight can lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower the body's cholesterol levels, improve breathing and help people sleep better.  It can reduce aches and pains people develop as they grow older, and it can improve mobility.  Losing weight may also help them decrease the amount of some medications they need."

Zikos agreed that while losing weight is the key, setting a goal to lose 5 percent of body weight can be abstract, so it's often better to set smaller goals, such as eating a healthier diet – more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and fish, eating lean protein, and limiting portion sizes.

"It always just comes down to good, healthy eating.  If we would all do that, we would be so much better off."

For more information, visit www.ohiovalleyhospital.org or call Susan Zikos as 412-777-6205.



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