DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am very concerned about my son. He has a huge belly. He has had it since the age of 33. He’s 43 now. I read an article about what causes this problem and, as I remember, it was a chemical that collects in the abdomen and causes fat to go there. Your information will be greatly appreciated. – E.K.

ANSWER: I don’t know the chemical you’re talking about. Fat cells make certain hormones involved in obesity. One is leptin. It signals the brain to boost or curb appetite. Another is adiponectin, which lowers blood sugar and increases fat-burning. This is interesting information but has no great practical implications presently.

Since he has had a large stomach for 10 years and since his health in general is OK, I have to presume that it’s fat that’s causing his stomach to bulge. Fat bellies are a danger. They indicate trouble in the future. They are signs of potential artery hardening, heart attacks and strokes.

A simple waist measurement tells if one is in trouble. The tape measure should surround the abdomen at about the level of the navel. If a man’s measurement is more than 40 inches (102 cm) and a woman’s more than 35 (89 cm), that person is in trouble.

There’s no quick fix for slimming the stomach. Your son must eat less and exercise more, and he has to be consistent about both. No exercise -such as sit-ups – takes fat off the abdominal area preferentially.

Throwing platitudes like “eat less and exercise more” at him are not helpful. Your son needs trained people to guide him in diet choices and exercise routines. He can start with the family doctor. In fact, he should. Obesity also paves the way for diabetes, and he should be checked for that.

I can give your son some upbeat information. Abdominal fat comes off faster than do other deposits of fat, or so I have read. I don’t know if I believe this. I seem to be an exception to that rule.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Three years ago, I had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland. Now, when I have sex, I have no emissions. Everything else is the same. Is this abnormal? Where does the semen go? – J.A.

ANSWER: Some men experience what’s called retrograde ejaculation after prostate surgery. The seminal fluid discharges into the bladder. It’s not abnormal. It should not have any effect on your or your wife’s sexual enjoyment.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have yellowish streaks on both eyelids. I asked my doctor what they are, and he said they are cholesterol deposits. How can that be? My cholesterol is normal. – T.B.

ANSWER: Those streaks are xanthelasmas (ZAN-thul-AS-mahs). They are deposits of fatty material, and cholesterol is one of the elements in them. Sometimes they indicate a high blood cholesterol level, but they also occur in people with a normal cholesterol value. I can’t explain why.

If you get on a crowded bus, you’ll probably spot at least one person with xanthelasmas.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: The backs of my hands are covered with brown spots. My neighbor tells me that they are liver spots and they are signs of liver disease. I have never touched a drop of alcohol in my life, and I feel fine. I can’t believe I have liver disease. Do I? – R.V.

ANSWER: Those spots are common and have nothing to do with the liver. They have to do with sunlight and aging. Don’t give them another thought. I don’t know how the “liver spot” name came about, but it’s unfortunate, for it worries people unnecessarily.

Retin-A, an acne medicine, has been prescribed to lighten them. If they don’t bother you, then leave them alone.

I have to declare a moratorium on this question. I have used it too much, but it’s so frequently asked that I’m compelled to repeat it every now and then.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Here’s a new one. Has there ever been a study of medication being transferred to a woman by semen? – N.D.

ANSWER: I have never read, heard or been told that medication is transferred in seminal fluid.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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