DEAR DR. ROACH: I am an old man (84) with a middle-age paunch (5 feet, 7 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds) who needs to fit into a suit with pants an inch too tight in time for a wedding in a few weeks. About how many pounds do I need to lose to fit into them? Is there any formula for converting waist inches to pounds? And are there exercises or other means to focus the weight loss on belly fat? — Anon.
ANSWER: I am afraid there’s no formula. Further, I have to tell you that weight doesn’t always come off where we want it to, and specific exercises aren’t going to make the fat come off in those locations.
The good news is that for most people, especially men, the first 10 pounds or so to come off usually comes from the middle. The fat in the omentum (an apronshaped structure inside the abdomen) is metabolically active and often is the first place where fat is gained or lost. Moreover, that fat is the most likely to increase risk of heart disease. So losing weight around your middle is a good way of improving overall health, especially if you have more inches there than you’d like.
Often people start a healthy diet and exercise program and find that the waist size decreases but their weight stays the same. That may be because muscle is much heavier than fat, and the increase in muscle mass makes up for the loss of fat. More muscle is good for you; less body fat is good for you. Weight is an imperfect measure.
Liposuction can remove fat from around your waist, but a healthy diet and regular exercise will make you feel better and quite possibly live longer.
. DEAR DR. ROACH: I injured my little finger in an athletic event. The end of my pinky pointed in toward the ring finger. It is black and blue, and swollen. Do you think I fractured it? Should I get an X-ray? I am still able to curl my finger. — A.J. ANSWER: It’s most likely that you damaged one of the tendons in the finger. Sometimes a fracture can happen at the same time. Most often, these are treated conservatively, with ice right after the injury and the finger splinted in a straight position for up to six weeks. Only an experienced physician, such as a hand surgeon, can provide exact recommendations.
. DEAR DR. ROACH: When you are instructed to take medicine, vitamin, etc., on an empty stomach, how long after eating should you wait? Also, if taken before
eating, how long after you take the medication until you can eat? — B.H.
ANSWER: It depends on the particular medication. For example, the osteoporosis drug alendronate (Fosamax) should be taken after an overnight fast, with plain water (even mineral water can affect its absorption) and then no food for a half hour. Different medications have different requirements. Your pharmacist remains your best resource, and often has both more training and experience than doctors. In general, most vitamins should be taken with food.