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Savitha Shama M.D. is board certified in Internal Medicine. She completed her residency training at the Grady Memorial Hospital under the Morehouse Internal medicine residency program. She is a graduate of Govt. Medical College, Mysore, India. Dr Shama practices at the Georgia Clinic in Norcross, GA. She can be reached at 770-449-0990 or at
Pot Belly - Is It Just About Looks Or Is There More To It?

Having a “pot belly” could be more than just a cosmetic concern. It may be one of the traits of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and even strokes, says Dr Shama.

If you have abdominal obesity, beware that it may be one of the visible traits of a syndrome that predicts untoward health consequences called metabolic syndrome. About quarter of Americans are said at be affected with metabolic syndrome. Obesity, especially abdominal is one of the most important risk factors in the development of metabolic syndrome. Also genetic predisposition, high carbohydrate (carb) intake, physical inactivity, smoking, and postmenopausal state in women can all affect towards development of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome has serious consequences as it increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and even strokes. Diabetes leads to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and infections. Hence it is important to recognize if you have this syndrome as certain measures can be taken to prevent these serious consequences. If you have abdominal obesity / over weight get checked for other possible traits that may suggest metabolic syndrome. 

Three factors out of the following is diagnostic of metabolic syndrome:

Waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men or greater than 35inches in women. 
*Triglycerides (determined by blood test) > 150
*HDL (determined by blood test) < 40 in men & < 50 in women
*High blood pressure > 130/85
*Fasting blood sugar > 100
Note, some men may develop multiple metabolic risk factors with only marginal increases in their waist circumferences [37 to 39 in] - such men have genetic contribution.

Key clinical implication of a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is identification of a patient needing aggressive lifestyle modification. Focusing on weight reduction and increased physical activity has shown to prevent the serious consequences mentioned above. The standard exercise recommended is a daily minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity (such as brisk walking) physical activity. Increasing the level of physical activity appears to further enhance the beneficial effects. Also, diet should consist of foods low in saturated fat, increased complex carbs (as in whole grain products, vegetables, legumes, peas, beans), and select foods of plant and marine origin.

Your doctor may also recommend the general aspects of cardiovascular risk factor reduction as it may be applicable. May include treatment of hypertension, cessation of smoking, glycemic control in diabetics, administration of aspirin, and lowering of serum cholesterol according to recommended guidelines

Other associations — The metabolic syndrome has also been associated with several obesity-related disorders including fatty liver disease, chronic kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and sleep-disordered breathing.

As you can see having a “pot belly” could be more than just a cosmetic concern, so take action now!

*Disclaimer: The contents are meant for informative, educational purposes only. Formal recommendations can only be made by physicians involved in your care. Please check with your physician before acting on any part of this article.