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Uncovering The Hidden Causes Of Weight Gain As We Age

Muscle loss, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances contribute to weight gain in older populations

Weight gain causes always unknown, but for eating more with no exercise is a powerful combo often to extra pounds, and this risks age-related illnesses, chronic stress, poor sleep and sex hormone imbalance.

Getting older brings physiological changes that can affect body weight. Chief among them is muscle loss. From middle age, one loses about 1% of muscle mass per year,  which affects strength and metabolism; smaller muscles use fewer calories; for instance, where diet does not change, there is more consumption of calories than needed.

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Obesity in United States of America in 2014. New studies say that subtle physical changes and underlying conditions implicated in weight gain dynamics. FRANCIS DEAN/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES.

“The excess calories is stored as fat,” says Dr. Caroline Apovian, an obesity medicine specialist and co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Stress management gets difficult with aging. Consistently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol is a result of chronic stress. Other age-related changes that can affect weight is cortisol; this helps the body to replenish energy stores and this indirectly promotes weight gain, for it increases appetite; by making the body think it needs energy, thus increasing storage of unused energy inform of fat. 

“Mostly, consumption of comfort foods often full of sugar, unhealthy fat, extra calories and salt is a hidden cause of weight gain,” said Dr. Apovian. 

Ability to sleep well has root causes from age related causes as sleep of  less than six hours each night elevates hormone that regulate appetite which raises level of hormones for hunger.

Age-related changes affect ability to sleep well. Sleeping six or fewer hours each night, might affect hormones that regulate appetite. Short sleep is associated with higher levels of hormones that make us hungry, lowers levels of hormones that make one feel satisfied therefore tending to eat more.

There is reduction of certain sex hormones in older populations. Low estrogen levels is associated with sleep problems and increased fat deposits in women, while reduction in testosterone levels in men is linked to reduction in muscle mass.

“A number of health conditions are signaled by weight gain, especially if new. Heart failure may result to weight gain, because it leads to retention of fluids in the body, which might swell feet, ankles, legs or belly and likely accompanied by symptoms fatigue or shortness of breath,” said Dr. Apovian.

Lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, certain kidney diseases, sleep apnea, thyroid problems to mention few are other underlying reasons associated to gain in body weight.

Regular taking of certain medication can also lead to weight gain; for example prednisone can retain fluids hence increasing weight; antidepressants such as paroxetine (paxil) or phenelzine (Nardil) affects brain chemicals which regulate appetite. Antihistamines contain diphenhydramine, antipsychotics and sleep aids, mentioning few, cause medication side effects.

Late night eating, load of gut microbes might influence appetite, metabolism, blood sugar and fat storage. 

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Obesity in United States of America in 2014. New studies say that subtle physical changes and underlying conditions implicated in weight gain dynamics. FRANCIS DEAN/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES.

To regulate weight gain; recent or excessive weight gain to be checked for underlying conditions influencing body weight by a doctor and also consult dietician for right calorie intake for current needs.

Very important is clean living, which is eating healthy such fruits rich diet, limited whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and ample amounts of lean protein to help build muscle; avoiding late-night eating; sleep seven to nine hours every night;  every day, exercise briskly for not less than 20 minutes; and no less than twice a week strength training. 

“You can rebuild muscle, but it takes a combination of healthy lifestyle habits to control weight,” said Dr. Apovian.

Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager

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