Drop Belly Fat to Drop Cancer Risks

300-bellyHaving trouble zipping up a pair of once baggy pants isn’t just a sign to buy a bigger pair. It also may mean that one needs to pay closer attention to his or her overall health. An expanding waistline can increase chances for certain cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic, breast (after menopause) and uterine cancer. Studies suggest that when it comes to health, a trim tummy is just as important as maintaining a healthy weight or low percentage of body fat.

“It’s not just fat directly under the skin,” said Sally Scroggs, health education manager in MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “A wide waist also is a warning sign that fat may be growing around important organs, like the pancreas.”

This fat, known as visceral fat, can weaken or damage organs. Too much visceral fat can tell the body to make more insulin than it needs. High levels of insulin over time can lead to diseases like diabetes and cancer. A heavy midsection also can put stress on the back and joints. This added pressure could result in aches and pains, causing one to be less active.

For post-menopausal women, lower estrogen levels can change the way the body stores fat. Instead of storing fat in the hips and thighs, women may see more fat in the abdomen. This extra tummy fat can disrupt hormones and increase chances of breast and uterine cancers.

The good news: Steps can be taken to reduce belly fat. Scroggs offers the following advice.

Body Measurements

Women should aim for a 31.5-inch waist or below and men a 37-inch waist or below. Follow these steps to determine measurements:

1. Place a tape measure around the waist at the narrowest point between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the hipbone.
2. Make sure the tape is snug but doesn’t squeeze the skin.
3. Measure the waist after breathing out.

300-vegieAnother important measurement is the waist-to-hip ratio. To get this number, place the tape measure loosely around the largest area of the hips. This area is usually around the buttocks. Take note of this number. Now, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement to get the waist-to-hip ratio. Men should keep their ratio below 0.95 and women below 0.80.

Eat a Belly-Friendly Diet

Choosing the right types and a-mounts of food can help trim belly fat. Try these diet tips:

• Cut 100 calories from daily diet.
• Reduce the amount of sugar eaten.
• Eat more plant-based proteins like  nuts and beans.
• Eat lots of dark, leafy greens and  berries.
• Choose whole grain breads andcereals and low-fat dairy.

Exercise to Lose Fat

Aim for at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise each week to reduce chances for cancer. Increasing workout time or upping the intensity of workouts will improve chances of shedding that extra tummy fat.

Also, include strength training activities in workouts. Strength training helps build muscle and increases the rate at which the body burns calories.

“Keeping a lean tummy is important for everyone at every age,” Scroggs said. “So, start making these healthy changes now.”

Visit www.mdanderson.org/focused for additional tips on health and exercise.