What is the telltale sign you have entered Boomtown? Gray or thinning hair? AARP application in the mail? No, look down. It is that slight, hardly noticeable little pooch. Whether you call it a beer belly, pot belly, spare tire or “boomer belly,” this middle-age spread is more dangerous than you may realize.
Why do we get boomer bellies? Blame Mother Nature. As you age, your metabolism slows, and you need fewer calories. “You can’t eat like you did in your 40s or 30s because your body is now different,” says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian, author of Nutrition & You and a clinical associate professor at Boston University. “If you consume those extra calories and they don't burn off — especially since you tend to become more sedentary as you age — they can settle in your midsection as stored fat.”
There are two kinds of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. About 90 percent of body fat is subcutaneous. You feel it with every pinch or grasp. Visceral fat makes up the remaining 10 percent and sits out of reach deep within the abdominal cavity, padding the spaces between your abdominal organs. Even though you cannot see it or feel it, this is the most dangerous fat. It has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes and associated with poor cognitive functioning among those age 60 to 70, says a July 2012 study in the journal Age and Ageing.
In women, visceral fat is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery. This also explains why people with an apple shape are at a higher health risk than those who resemble a pear with fat around the thighs.
So if you can pinch an inch, it is a sign that something hazardous lies beneath. (To determine your visceral fat, go to Gut Check at the end of this article on Next Avenue.)
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