8. Understand Why Metabolism Slows with Age

Around age thirty, the immune system fights a little slower; the muscular system loses tone; the ratio of muscle to fat declines; fat settles around the stomach, buttocks, and thighs; the abdomen sags—and the metabolism begins to change. With age-related decrease in muscle mass comes a decline in metabolism and a decrease in calories burned. You will gain weight more easily and find it more difficult to lose, and your digestive tract, which used to be able to handle anything you popped into it, becomes sluggish and decidedly more sensitive. At the same time, a decrease in glucose tolerance increases the risk of developing diabetes (especially if you’re overweight), and increased blood pressure puts you at greater risk of heart disease (especially if you add a lot of salt to your food). As you pass your fortieth birthday, the heart muscle may enlarge so it can pump more blood as it tries to compensate for clogged and hardening arteries. At the same time, the covering sheath around the heart may thicken, resulting in an overall reduction in blood output. This decrease leads to a decline in the supply of oxygen to muscle tissue, resulting in a reduction in aerobic capacity. Bottom line: Even minimal exercise hits you harder and tires you more quickly, which slows your metabolism. To boost your metabolism despite your age, stay active— even if it becomes harder to do so.

9. Know Why Men Burn More Calories than Women

Males generally have a 10 to 15 percent faster BMR than females because the male body has a larger percentage of lean muscle tissue. The simple fact is that muscle burns calories faster than fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.

10. Know Your Cholesterol Numbers

When you embark on any health or fitness regime, it is important to ask your doctor for a total lipoprotein profile so that you are aware not only of your total cholesterol but of each component as well. You may have a total cholesterol level that is desirable, but that doesn’t mean your HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol) levels are in line. Cholesterol levels are measured by measured by milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL, which basically tells you how much cholesterol (in mg) is present in each deciliter (dL) of blood sample. Your total cholesterol level will fall into one of three categories:

1. Desirable: less than 200 mg/dL

2. Borderline high risk: 200–239 mg/dL

3. High risk: 240 mg/dL and over

If you fall within the high-risk range, you have at least twice the risk of heart disease as someone in the desirable range.

If you have a cholesterol reading over 240 mg/dL or you have risk factors such as heart disease along with cholesterol readings over 200 mg/dL, your doctor will probably prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication in combination with a healthy low-fat diet and exercise. Diet and exercise are two important ways to both cut your cholesterol numbers and enhance your metabolism. Your doctor should periodically test your blood cholesterol levels to check on your progress.

If your numbers are high, take measures to lower them, using this as motivation to improve your nutrition, ramp up your exercise, increase your metabolism, and lose weight.

11. Know If Your Liver Is Healthy

Your liver is responsible for burning most of the fat in your body. If it is healthy, it pumps out excess fat through bile and helps you keep a healthy weight. However, if your liver is not healthy, it can cause your body to hold on to fat and cause other health problems. You can damage your liver by drinking too much alcohol, taking antibiotics or painkillers for long periods, taking oral synthetic hormone replacement drugs, being exposed to toxic chemicals including pesticides, having a viral infection of the liver (such as hepatitis C and B, autoimmune hepatitis, hemochromatosis, or primary biliary cirrhosis), or eating an unhealthful diet high in fat.

If you suspect liver problems, or if you are obese, ask your doctor to perform blood tests that will measure liver enzymes. Elevated enzymes may indicate inflammation and damage to the liver cells and their membranes. Luckily, liver cells are very resilient, and you can restore their health by following your doctor’s recommendations, which may include changing your eating habits so you’re on a proper diet.

12. Know Your Body Rhythms

Are you a morning person or an evening person? If you are one extreme or the other, you already know your body’s preferred rhythm, and I hope you’re in sync with it. If you aren’t sure, or if it varies widely, pay attention to your body for a week, noticing when you are energized and when you are winding down. If your energy peaks midday, eat your highest calorie meal for lunch, or breakfast, and work out closest to the energy peak. Eating or exercising when your body is energized will maximize the metabolic burn.

13. Talk to Your Doctor If You Suspect Thyroid Problems

Thyroid hormones stimulate many metabolic activities in most body tissues, resulting in an increase in basal metabolic rate. Though it is uncommon, carrying excess (or not enough) weight may be the result of an overactive or underactive thyroid gland. Your doctor will be able to check your symptoms and run the necessary blood tests to determine if it is the cause for your battle with your weight. Some symptoms of a thyroid problem include:

• Feeling nervous, weak, or fatigued •

• Having hands that shake, a heart that beats fast when at rest, and breathing problems

• Having sweaty or warm, red, itchy skin

• Experiencing more bowel movements than usual

• Having fine, soft hair that falls out

• Losing weight even though you haven’t changed or have increased your diet

14. Talk to Your Doctor If You Are Diabetic

Other hormones, specifically insulin and glucagon, play an important role in metabolism by affecting glucose levels or the transport of glucose through the body. The more insulin you produce—or take—the more sluggish your metabolism will be. If you are diabetic, you must consult your doctor before embarking on any diet or exercise plan.

15. Talk to Your Doctor If You Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding Pregnancy and breastfeeding will affect your metabolic

Pregnancy and breastfeeding will affect your metabolic rate. To support the growth of a fetus, a pregnant woman must take in more calories. Breastfeeding an infant also requires additional caloric intake. Both of these actions increase your rate of metabolism. Since these are very important physical events that require increased attention to nutrition and monitoring, please consult your doctor and ask for his or her input on what and how much you should be eating while pregnant or nursing.

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