Health Features

Handling the Pressure

While women often are the focus of conversations on how to balance a career and home life, men are under similar pressures of providing for their families, dealing with demands at work and having enough energy at home for kids and relationships. These stressors can rear their ugly heads in a number of ways, from cardiovascular disease to extra inches around the waist. We’re here to offer solutions for dealing with it all and coming out victorious.

belly fat 

That troublesome spare tire is a problem for many men, especially as they age and stress levels increase. Flattening the ‘tire’ can take some real effort, but it’s not an impossible task, says Dr. Richard Moore of The Lifestyle Center and The Edge for Men. “The main cause of belly fat is pretty simple,” he notes. “You’re consuming more calories than you are burning through physical activity. With all of our electronic devices and endless TV channels, lifestyles are much more sedentary than they were decades ago.”

There was a time when exercise gurus talked about targeting specific areas of fat like the stomach, but Moore says that thinking has gone by the wayside. “Spot reduction is not a realistic idea,” he explains. “When the body burns calories, it does so from all fat sources. Doing 100 situps a day is beneficial, but it won’t just affect your abdomen. Any weight loss will happen diffusely throughout the body.”

Hormones and heredity also play a role in the accumulation of belly fat, according to Moore. “As men age, testosterone levels tend to drop, and muscle mass declines,” he explains. “Your muscles are always burning calories, so if you have less muscle, you’re burning fewer calories. When calories aren’t burned, they get stored as fat.”

Modern fat loss procedures can help men win the battle against unwanted bulges. These methods may be effective alone or in combination depending on the patient’s needs, but it’s important to remember they are not weight loss solutions, according to Moore. “Treatments should be coupled with good lifestyle choices like a healthy diet and regular exercise,” he notes.

treatment solutions 
Vanquish ME: A radiofrequency energy system that uses heat to program the death of fat cells
Emsculpt: A focused electromagnetic energy treatment that causes high-intensity muscle contractions to destroy fat cells and improve muscle definition
coolsculpting: A system that uses cold temperatures to destroy fat cells in stubborn areas

a little around the middle
If you’re carrying some extra fat in the waist area, you’re not alone. It’s a tough spot to whittle down, and there are several factors that can add to the frustration. Here are some important things to know about this kind of fat:
Belly fat isn’t limited to the subcutaneous space just below your skin. It also includes visceral fat, which is deeper in the abdomen and surrounds internal organs.
Having a lot of belly fat may signal increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and even premature death.
➌ Age and genetics play a role in belly fat. Aging brings a loss of muscle mass, which decreases the rate at which the body uses calories. This can make it tough to maintain a healthy weight.
➍ If you don’t strike a healthy balance between caloric intake and physical activity, you likely will add extra pounds, including abdominal fat.
Calories from alcoholic beverages can add to the problem. For men under age 65, two drinks per day is the recommended limit; for those 65 and older, it’s one.

diabetes and heart disease

We often hear that belly fat is tied to conditions like diabetes and heart disease. So what’s the connection? Dr. Jill Bosanquet, a physician with SSM Health DePaul Hospital Weight Management Services, says it has to do in part with substances made by fat cells.

“Visceral fat produces inflammatory chemicals and hormones,” she explains. “This fat is deep in the abdomen, close to the liver and its blood supply. The chemicals and hormones get into the liver and circulate, causing issues with insulin, blood sugar control and inflammation. This can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.”

Bosanquet emphasizes the importance of controlling stress to help prevent excess body fat and related issues. “If you experience a lot of stress, you’ll have elevated levels of cortisol, another hormone the body produces,” she notes. “It causes blood sugars to elevate. Studies have found links between cortisol and increased visceral fat in men and women.”

Getting an appropriate amount of sleep is as important as other healthy lifestyle choices, according to Bosanquet. “People who sleep much less than seven hours a night—or more than eight—tend to be at risk for more visceral fat,” she says. “Between 6 and 7 hours should be your target.”

She says a good step in tackling disease risk related to an expanding waistline is to ask your doctor about measuring visceral fat. In men, a waist circumference of 40 inches or more is cause for concern. (In women, it’s 35 inches.)

the facts
» Excess body fat is the strongest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Balancing a healthy diet with physical activity is key to preventing its onset.
» Replacing foods high in saturated fat with items like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts may help reduce heart disease risk.

exercise for better health 

Joe Goldberg, owner and general manager of fitness studio TruFusion St. Louis, offers some weighty advice for men on health issues related to stress and body mass.

» Physical activity is one of the most natural ways to improve the health of your body and mind. “Exercise is an effective way to ‘trick’ your brain into being happy and stress-free,” Goldberg says. “Activity produces the same brain chemicals that many people get prescriptions for, but it does so in a healthier way.

» Group exercise is popular among women but can be great for men as well. “Programs such as CrossFit appeal to men because they include activities like weightlifting,” Goldberg says. “Men often are driven by competition; a group helps motivate them.

» Exercise should be done for your health, not your appearance. “Don’t work out for the sake of vanity,” Goldberg advises. “Do it to benefit your body, reduce stress and depression, and feel better in general. You’ll also build strength that helps you avoid injury.

» Muscle mass declines with age, so it’s important to choose rebuilding exercises. Goldberg recommends a high-intensity cardio workout and strength training at least once or twice a week.

» Work out in a way that defies your comfort zone. Goldberg advises trying a barre class, for example. “This takes a strong man, but it’s worth it!” he says. “It works different muscles and includes types of movement you won’t get in other classes or the weight room.

» Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge offers advice on increasing longevity by being more active and health-conscious.

did you know?
Studies suggest that by 2030, half of all U.S. adults will be obese. That’s up from just 15 percent in the early 1970s.