Belly Fat

You’ve always worried about the extra fat in your arms, legs or backside, but lately, it’s your middle that’s expanding. Sarah Wymer, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician at Winneshiek Medical Center sheds some light on why your belly is beginning to bulge.

“When women reach menopause, hormones cause significant changes to their body, and unfortunately, one of those changes is an increase in belly fat,” she says. This type of fat can also be hereditary or age-related. Whatever the cause, Dr. Wymer advises that excess belly fat is different than fat on the rest of your body, and it should not be ignored.

She says, “Much of women’s belly fat is visceral fat deep inside the abdomen – you can’t grab hold of it with your hand.” It is this visceral fat that has shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, gallbladder problems, high blood pressure and colorectal cancer. Dr. Wymer says, “The fat cells are very active and can produce hormones or other substances that may affect your health. For example, some visceral fat cells produce estrogen, and after menopause, excess estrogen increases your risk of breast cancer.”

Fortunately, belly fat, even the stuff deep inside, responds well to exercise and diet modifications. Daily moderate-intensity exercise, including some weight training and abdominal exercises, will do wonders to shrink your belly. Couple exercise with smaller portions, healthy poly- or mono-unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats, and an increase in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and your tummy troubles will begin to diminish.

Dr. Wymer says, “Excess belly fat plagues many women. If you are concerned, talk to your health care provider to discuss risk factors and how to lose the fat in a healthy way.”

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