Belly fat is a common term used to describe fat that forms beneath your abdominal skin and in the spaces around your abdominal organs. If enough fat accumulates around your organs, you can develop significant risks for a number of serious health problems. Men tend to gain belly fat after age 40 because of changes in their metabolism.
As men enter their 30s, they start to lose muscle tissue, or muscle mass. Muscle burns a relatively large percentage of the calories you take in, and when you lose muscle, your body gradually loses its ability to effectively maintain efficient calorie burning. The rate of muscle loss accelerates as you age, and if you don’t become more physically active or decrease the amount of calories you consume, the associated slowdown in your metabolism can lead to the accumulation of increasing amounts of body fat. In many cases, this fat appears on your abdomen.
Additional Contributing Factors
Some men also have a genetic tendency toward obesity and belly fat accumulation. However, in most cases, the roles of genetics is relatively small when compared to physical inactivity and other lifestyle choices. Among these choices is the regular consumption of alcohol, which can lead to the development of a classic “beer belly.” However, beer isn’t the only form of alcohol that can contribute to the development of belly fat. In fact, with the potential exception of wine, significant consumption of any form of alcohol can increase your tendency to form fat in your abdomen.
Estimating Your Risks
You can estimate your risks for belly-fat related health problems by measuring your waist at the level just above your hip bone. If you have a waist size in excess of 40 inches, the fat in your belly is probably endangering your health. Ailments or conditions related to an excessive amount of belly fat include sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, abnormally low levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and high levels of a dangerous blood-borne fat called triglyceride. Your risks for these ailments remain even if you don’t have excessive amounts of fat in other parts of your body.
Reversing Fat Accumulation
Avoid or reverse the accumulation of belly fat by making appropriate changes in your exercise routine and food choices. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to high intensity aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, high-intensity interval training and jogging-and-walking. In addition, offset age-related muscle loss by participating two or three times a week in muscle-building activities such as calisthenics or weightlifting. You can reduce your calorie intake by choosing foods that contain fewer calories or reducing the portion sizes of foods you already eat. Consult your doctor for more information on age-related belly fat gain and other belly-fat related factors.
- Health.harvard.edu: Taking aim at belly fat
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition
- ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal; Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight; Len Kravits Ph.D. et al.