Q: I'm not THAT overweight, but I have a big gut. My doctor says I have to lose my belly, but I shouldn't lose much weight overall. How does that work, and why does it matter? -- Joseph L., Asbury Park, N.J.
A: Your doctor is giving you good advice. A large waist size is linked to poor health and premature death, even if your body mass index (your weight in relationship to your height) is in a normal range. Recently, researchers looked at 11 studies of 650,000 people and found that men with the largest waist size died three years sooner than those with the trimmest waistline (big-waisted women died five years earlier!). These findings reinforce the results of another new study that found that it's more accurate to use the innovative (though oddly named) A Body Shape Index (ABSI) than Body Mass Index (BMI) to evaluate your health; ABSI is based on waist size. But what's really important is how to lose your dangerous belly fat.
Eat less saturated fats, sugars and syrups -- and move more, Joe! That's how you'll burn off your visceral belly fat, which is linked to insulin resistance (a risk for diabetes), elevated triglycerides, higher levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Start enjoying healthy proteins and fats from grains, beans and fish such as salmon and trout. Eliminate saturated fats from meat, dairy, two-legged animal skin, and palm and coconut oil. Avoid all trans fats. Say "no" to all added sugars and sugary syrups.
Reclaim your heart health and burn fat by aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day. Build in 30-minute interval-training walks: Walk briskly for three to four minutes, then amp up your pace for 30-60 seconds. Repeat until the walk is over. This boosts fat-burning, both while you work out and afterward.
It does take work, but you'll feel so much healthier, happier ... and sexier.
Q: Next month I have to take my 6-year-old daughter to the hospital for a procedure. They have a "kids and clowns" program and want to know if I'd like them to stop by her room after recovery. Are they nuts? Clowns are frightening! -- Audrey S., Fishkill, N.Y.
A: Going to the hospital is always stressful, especially if your child is the patient. And if you express a fear of clowns when they come to visit, then chances are your child will pick up on your anxiety and feel it too. And that can heighten her nervousness about the whole hospital experience. But that does not mean that the kids and clowns program is a bad idea. The hospital probably has a program like Clown Docs, a wonderful organization started by St. Louis Children's Hospital. Similar programs have sprung up throughout the U.S. and Canada to help kids who are dealing with serious health issues, by providing an escape from worry. Laughter stimulates the heart and cranks up the flow of endorphins. In the long term, it may boost immunity, relieve pain and improve mood.
In general, people fear clowns because they cover their faces with makeup, act in strange ways and aren't accountable to the same rules of behavior as the rest of us. (Sort of like today's politicians.) But hospital clowns use minimal makeup so the children can identify them as regular, friendly folks.
Go talk with the clowns before they come into your child's room. You'll feel better when you see firsthand that their mission is to use humor to relieve stress and distract your daughter -- and you -- from your worries.
(Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)