Losing belly fat.
Q I'm a 63-year-old man who's in pretty good health, but my doctor has been urging me more and more lately to lose my belly fat. I'm not obese, but is there really that much danger in carrying around a few extra pounds?
A First, it depends on how you're defining "a few extra pounds." Your definition may differ greatly from that your physician. A few, meaning three or four pounds over your ideal weight, isn't cause for concern. But if you're 20 pounds overweight or more, then, yes, you should listen to your doctor.
This is especially true if you tend to carry weight around your abdomen. Here's a partial list of the health risks associated with excess belly fat: Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, sleep apnea, stroke, and even some forms of cancer. And those risks only get higher as you age.
There are a number of ways to determine whether your belly is a little too round, such as waist-to-hip ratio. But in general, if your waist is 40 or more inches around (and no sucking in your stomach while you're measuring!), you should become more proactive at losing that belly fat. While consuming fewer calories is the first step, you can also help your cause with a combination of cardio and resistance training exercises. As we age, we start to lose muscle mass, and the less muscle you have, the less efficiently your body burns calories. So if you can start to build back some lost muscle mass, you'll be burning more calories, even at rest, than you are now. The current thinking calls for 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Editor-in-Chief Bruce A. Ferrell, MD, Professor of Medicine and Geriatrics