A disease that usually targets women should now have men paying closer attention.
“Osteoporosis is now also a disease of men,” Dr. Kevin Campbell, cardiologist based in Raleigh, N.C., told FoxNews.com.
And it’s directly related to beer bellies.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so any type of stress on the bone can cause a break, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease tends to affect women more often than men, especially post-menopausal women because they no longer have the protection of estrogen.
However, a recent study from the North American Society for Radiology showed truncal obesity in men is associated with osteoporosis. The info was presented at the North American Society for Radiology conference in Chicago last November.
The study tested 35 men with an average age of 34.
Their average BMI was 36.5, which by definition is obese. After CT scans to see fat and muscle mass, their bone strength was calculated. The researchers found the BMI and age did not affect bone strength, but fat around the waist did.
“If you are a man and you have a little bit of excess fat around the waistline, it should really be a trigger to start thinking about the fact that you are putting yourself at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease, and now osteoporosis,” Campbell said. “Men are never really associated with osteoporosis and this is yet another reason for men to try to trim their waistlines as they age.”
And having a ‘beer belly’ may have nothing to do with drinking beer.
“Beer bellies is just a funny way of saying that fat is deposited around the middle in men,” Campbell said.
Matt Overby, 27, also from Raleigh, knows firsthand about beer bellies – he developed one after college, which had nothing to do with drinking.
“I’ve never been the biggest drinker, compared to some,” Overby said.
Yet, he gained over 60 pounds in five years, putting him at more than 280 pounds.
“I got done with school, I started working,” Overby explained. “It was go to work, do your stuff, go home, go to sleep or go out with your friends.”
He finally decided he wanted to change his lifestyle to save his life.
“All of these things that I could develop in the future were my motivation to say ‘Well, I don’t want to have to be on medication for this’ or ‘ I don’t want to have to suffer from osteoporosis and possibly later on down the road having a broken hip that might completely debilitate me,’” Overby said.
Campbell said after the age of 65, men are more prone to hip fractures and broken bones – especially if you have a beer belly.
“If you have a beer belly, you are at risk for broken bones and that could cause a fracture and hip fractures in the elderly,” he said. “(It’s very, very serious and can be life-threatening,”
With diet and exercise, Overby lost 55 pounds and dropped eight pant sizes over the course of a year.
“I don’t refer to it as going on a diet anymore,” Overby said. “It’s the way it is. This is what I have to do the rest of my life to stay healthy.”
The best way to avoid a beer belly is to monitor your calories, exercise, and of course, talk to your doctor.
Mary Quinn O'Connor is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the Junior Reporters Program here.