5 myths about his beer belly

His big belly could mean big health trouble. Find out the truth about what it could mean

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Could his health be at risk?

Does your significant other carry extra weight around his waist? About 30 percent of men in their 40s and 50s have abdominal obesity, and that goes up to more than 40 percent for men in their 60s and older. He might make jokes about his beer belly but the truth is, tummy fat is not funny. Here, we reveal the truth behind some of the most prevalent myths about men and their bellies.

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Myth 1: If he's slim everywhere else, a belly isn't a big deal

Unless he's very tall or large-boned, if your partner wears pants with a waist size over 40 inches, he's got as much as double the risk for heart disease as a man his age with a smaller waist; even overweight guys who carry the bulk on their hips will have better overall health. "Fat around the midsection is doing many things to your health," says Dr. Alykhan Nanji, director of C-era, a heart disease diagnostic clinic in Calgary. This type of fat has been tied to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. These problems together are called metabolic syndrome, which affects one in five adults and can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

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Myth 2: His big belly is caused by beer

A German study published in 2009 looked at more than 20,000 men and women, and found that while drinking beer was associated with higher weight in men, it had no relationship to big bellies. The real cause is simpler: a mix of poor eating habits (too much high-fat, high-sugar food; and not enough lean proteins and fruit and vegetables), not enough exercise, age and genetics (some men are predisposed because of family history or their ethnic background). So, the dude who sits around a lot drinking beer and eating snacks will be at risk for a big gut.

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Myth 3: Men are not very self-conscious about their big tummies

A British study found 80 percent of guys talk about their bodies-mostly negative talk about their big guts-and 35 percent would trade a year of their lives to get a more streamlined, muscular shape. Nanji, meanwhile, says his male patients are not as stressed about their appearance as women, but they do get upset if they can't easily do things such as climb stairs.

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Myth 4: Sit-ups will melt his belly fat away

"Core training won't have a direct impact on the fat we hold in that area," says Brad King, a Vancouver-based nutrition researcher and author of several books, including Beer Belly Blues. In fact, if you have a large belly and suddenly start doing ab exercises incorrectly, you could end up pulling muscles and not helping your core strength at all.

Instead, men should focus on aerobic exercise and eating smaller portions. Nanji says men who lose five percent of their body weight gradually will be better able to keep the weight off and will see an impact not only on their belly size but on their health.

If you want to help your partner trim his belly, you should first be sure he's really ready to make changes. And when he is, don't focus on avoiding one food (or drink) to melt away the pounds; instead, start with small dietary changes, and make time to exercise together. And, King says, remind him that losing just a few pounds and getting fitter can perk up his mood, sex drive and overall zest for life.

Related:
3 self-esteem tips for men
The guy's guide to not getting fat
Men's heart health guide