Gaining Weight? How to Fire Up Your Metabolism After 50

Middle-age spread crept up on you, huh? Feeling like your metabolism has just slooooowed down now that you’ve over 50? While there have been some findings that suggest our metabolism doesn’t change as much as we thought it did in mid-life, there’s no doubt that a lot of people pack on the pounds as the years go by, whatever the reason. That means you might be looking for ways to ignite your metabolism, so you don’t feel like your weight is spiraling out of control as you age – and there are ways to do it! Check out the following foods you can incorporate into your diet, as well as actions you can take, that could help get your metabolism fired up again, no matter your age.

Aging and Weight Gain

When it comes to aging and weight gain, the statistics are pretty depressing. While not everyone will pack on the pounds as the years go by, most people will find it hard to lose or even maintain their weight as they age. In fact, according to a review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, most of us will gain 1 to 2 pounds a year. Why? There are a few reasons:

older man measuring his bicep

  • Age-related muscle loss – Yes, you actually lose muscle as you age: in fact, the amount of lean muscle we have begins to decline by 3 to 8% per decade after age 30, a process called sarcopenia. And you’ve probably heard that muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you’re losing muscles and eating the same amount of calories…well, you can guess the rest.
  • Lifestyle changes – As you’ve gone through your busy middle-age, you might have gotten out of the habit of finding time to exercise, or might have gotten a little lax with your dietary habits, and that can all add up.
  • Normal hormonal changes – For women, menopause causes a significant drop in estrogen that encourages extra pounds to settle around the belly. And for men, a significant drop in testosterone beginning around age 40 can make the body less effective at burning calories, since testosterone helps regulate fat distribution and muscle strength and mass. We also stop producing as much growth hormone as we age, which makes it harder to build and maintain muscle. 
  • Metabolic changes – As we pointed out above, recent studies have shown that the relationship between aging and metabolism is more complicated than we thought, but it is pretty clear that less muscle mass and being less active with age can wreak havoc on our metabolism as we get older.

So how do we fight the battle of the bulge? We can’t change the fact that our hormones shift, but we can try to fire up our metabolism by dealing with those two other issues: our bodies and our lifestyles.

Foods That Fire You Up

What you eat is obviously related to your weight in a calories in, calories out kind of way, but in addition to eating in a moderate way, there are also simple foods that you can incorporate into your diet that studies suggest can boost your metabolism. These include:chili peppers in a bowl

  • Chili peppers – Research suggests that the capsaicinoids (CAPs) found in both chili peppers and pepper extracts could play a role in enhanced metabolism. According to a Bioscience Reports study, capsaicin (the most common capsaicinoid) has been found to support metabolic health, especially when it comes to weight loss in people who are obese. 
  • Ginger – In some studies, ginger has been shown to enhance thermogenesis (calorie burning). It is also filled with antioxidants whose anti-inflammatory properties could help with weight loss. 
  • Oats (and other whole grains) – Studies show that substituting whole grains for refined ones could help increase your resting metabolic rate. And oats specifically are a good option because they are a great source of resistant starch, or starch that escapes from digestion in the small intestines of healthy people. Once it reaches the colon, this resistant starch acts like a food source for the good bacteria that live in your gut, improving your ratio of “good” to “bad” gut bacteria – and a healthy gut helps support energy metabolism. 
  • Dark chocolate – Yes, chocolate – but make sure it’s dark – the darker the better – and make sure you eat it in moderation, since it is a caloric food. But says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, “According to results of a study published in Molecules in 2018, people who had a daily consumption of 2 grams of dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa, for 6 months experienced better aspects of glucose metabolism versus people who had 2 grams of chocolate milk for the same amount of time.”
  • Protein – Foods high in protein also have a high thermic effect, which means it’s much more difficult for your body to break down into its usable parts. In other words, when you eat protein, you use more calories just during the digestion phase than when you’re eating other things.
  • Omega-3Fish oil can reduce inflammation and cortisol, which in turn helps with fat metabolism and muscle gain.

Sounds like we’re all in for some tasty ways to fire things up. With winter approaching, we’re already thinking about a fiery chili laced with dark chocolate… But while we’re dreaming of things to eat that can boost your metabolism, let’s also think about other ways to do it, including some that might surprise you.

Surprising Other Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

Boosting your metabolism is not just about what you eat. There are other ways to fire it up, so you burn more calories even when resting. Consider these lifestyle changes you can make:

Drink More Water

dumbbells on a rack in a gym
Weight training 2-3 times a week can help boost your metabolism.

Let’s start with a super easy – and probably surprising – one: drink more water to increase your metabolism!  Studies have shown that drinking half a liter (500ml) of water can increase resting metabolism by up to 30%, but only for an hour at a time. How? When we drink, our body goes through a state called thermogenesis to heat the water to body temperature. Using energy to create heat like this requires burning calories, which can in turn boost metabolism. And while the effect only lasts for an hour, you can take advantage of this thermogenesis multiple times a day. So make sure you’ve got your water bottle with you at all times!

Build muscle

You were expecting this one, right? But here’s something that might surprise you: if you just lose weight, you could actually end up slowing down your metabolism. What you need to do is also gain lean muscle, also called body recompositioning. And yes, to build muscle you should be doing weight training 2-3 times a week, while eating enough protein to support muscle growth. And if you’re over 50 and a little wary of heavy weights? You can still get a good strength training workout with resistance bands, or even just using your body weight.

Get NEAT-er

No, we don’t mean you need to do more tidying up – or, actually we do! NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which simply means the calories you burn during your non-workout hours. NEAT plays a big role in your metabolism – in fact, research suggests that it could be responsible for up to 30% of your total daily calorie burn. So yes, we do want you to get up off the couch and move around more, even if it’s just to tidy up while listening to music, instead of watching TV. Try to target at least 1-2 sedentary habits a week, replacing them with more active ones (like taking a walk while you talk on the phone)

Focus on the hormones you have some control over

As we pointed out above, there are some inevitable hormonal changes that happen as you age. But there are certain other hormones that can be problematic for your waistline that you can do at least something about: cortisol (the stress hormone) and leptin (one of the hunger hormones). Doing calming, mind-body activities can actually help to regulate these hormones, so you might want to consider getting your “om” on!

Get your zzz’s 

Getting enough sleep is so important for so many reasons, including keeping your metabolism fired and your weight in check. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Lipid Research, restricting sleep for just several days alters how we metabolize fats and changes how satisfied we are by a meal. So make sure you’re getting around 7-9 hours a night!

There’s a lot we can’t control about getting older (hello, reading glasses), and it can often feel like your weight is one of them. And yes, while our bodies do change and our hormones do fluctuate as we age, you don’t necessarily have to go down without a fight. You can find ways to boost your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight – or even lose weight – over 50, you just need to incorporate the above eating and lifestyle changes. And let us know how your weight is changing as you age, and what you’re doing about it! 

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

Resolutions Suck…But It Might Be Time to Kick These Secretly Bad-for-You Habits

We’ve all got them: bad habits that we know are bad for us, but that we haven’t quite gotten around to kicking to the curb. You know, smoking, being too sedentary, having a few too many big nights out, or eating candy every night… And maybe now is the time of year when you start thinking about changing your ways and getting healthier. But what if there are things you’re doing that you don’t even realize are bad for you, or that might be worse for you than you think? Hard to change your ways if you don’t know you need to change them, right? So, while we’re generally pretty anti-resolution (see here), we do want to point out some bad habits that might be secretly worse for you than you think, so you can get started on being a healthier you!

1. Living by the 5-Second Rule

hand spreading out fingers
The 5 second rule is not actually healthy for you!

Oh man, you dropped your last French fry – that’s the worst! Buuuuut…you managed to snatch it up immediately, so you dust it off and guiltily pop it into your mouth, claiming the “5-second rule.” But that’s not a thing, and it’s not just us saying that: it’s backed up by science. Eating a fry off the floor might not be the worst thing you can do to your body, but researchers want us to know that you can still get sick from a bacteria-contaminated piece of food no matter how long it’s been on the floor, although the longer it’s there, the worse it might be. 

According to Donald Schaffner, a food scientist at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, “The five-second rule is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food. Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously.”  So let that fry go, friend, let it go.

2. Not Being Up on Your Napping Knowledge

Don’t get us wrong, we’re definitely NOT naysaying all napping – you just have to know how to do it right. An analysis of over 20 studies encompassing more than 300,00 people done by The European Society of Cardiology found that, while a short 30-45 minute nap can be beneficial to heart health, their findings on longer naps were pretty concerning. They found that naps lasting over an hour are linked to a 30% higher risk of all-cause death and 34% higher chance of cardiovascular disease in comparison to people who don’t nap at all. Wow, guess we better set that alarm.

3. Dieting Like It’s 1999

Are you still dieting, in the old-fashioned sense of the word? Like, drastically cutting calories or giving up food groups to quickly lose weight? Well, it turns out that’s really not a great idea; instead, you should be thinking about making sustainable lifestyle changes. If you get sucked into yo-yo dieting, you’ll only end up repeatedly losing and regaining weight, or weight cycling. And weight cycling is not only stressful for you, but it’s also connected to health issues like increased insulin, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well inflammation and slowed metabolism.

In addition, you should always be wary of diets that involve cutting out whole categories of foods (unless it’s candy!). For example, if you’ve sworn off carbs, think about this: foods with carbohydrates are where you get most of your fiber each day, so if you don’t eat enough of them you could end up with some severe digestive distress. There are a lot of weird things that happen to your body when you eliminate carbs, including low energy levels and brain fog, so be careful how you radically change your diet.

4. Slouching Towards Worse Healthcaucasian woman with work attire sitting at a desk slouching while looking at her laptop

Slumping a bit at your desk? You might think that in the worst-case scenario you’ll end up with some neck and shoulder pain. However, while you’re definitely at risk for that if you’re slouching, you could also be headed towards heartburn, poor digestion, incontinence, and constipation. “Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. The position also decreases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to hold against that pressure,” according to Meghan Markowski, a physical therapist at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. So take a look for exercises you can do to help straighten up and fly right.

5. Having Your Coffee with all the Fixins

Love sweet, flavored coffee drinks? You might want to consider cutting back on them for your health (and your wallet!). Chew (or sip) on this: a 16 ounce (Grande) flavored Caffe Latte at Starbucks packs 17 grams of sugar – 4 teaspoons worth – from the syrup alone. Even adding half-and-half and a couple of packets of sugar to your coffee can add 50 calories to your normally 5-calorie cup; over a year, if you don’t offset those extra calories each day, that’s enough to pack on 5 extra pounds.

6. Being a Texting Pedestrian

Can’t take your eyes off your phone? If you’re glued to your screen in the privacy of your own home, you can take that up with your partner or other people who might be annoyed by it, but if you’re doing it when you’re out and about, you could end up seriously injured. A recent study from the University of Washington found that people who crossed several busy intersections while texting were four times less likely than people who weren’t texting to look before they crossed, cross with the light, or stay in the crosswalk. It also took them two seconds longer to navigate the intersection, leaving them much more vulnerable to danger from the vehicles around them. Trust us, scrolling through social media can wait – seriously.

7. Eating Al Desko

plate of spaghetti on a desk next to a laptop
Eating at your desk can cause you to eat less healthy.

We get it, you’re busy. So you might be taking more lunches at your desk than you’d like – and, honestly, more than are good for your health. According to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, you’re more likely to overeat if you’re eating at work, especially if you’re sitting in front of your computer, since when you’re distracted, you tend not to actually think very much about what you’ve just put into your mouth. And if you don’t even recall what you’ve been eating, “That blunts the satiety response,” according to lead author Jeff Brunstrom, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Bristol in England. And if your lunch isn’t filling you up – even if it’s just a trick of your mind – you’re more likely to eat more and snack throughout the day. So get out there and reclaim your lunchtime!

8. Popping Pain Pills

Life gives you headaches, and luckily, modern medicine gives you pain relievers to help. But if you’re constantly reaching for over-the-counter pain pills, you could be doing more harm than good. For example, excessive use of acetaminophen can cause liver issues, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), can cause stomach and/or kidney problems. And if you suffer from migraines, taking over-the-counter pain relievers two or three times a week for weeks on end can actually cause more headaches, due to a rebound effect that can occur after your body gets used to the medication.

So now you know the truth about these little, but possibly damaging, bad habits – and knowledge is power! But breaking bad habits can be tough. It takes a lot of focus and patience, since studies now show that forming or breaking a habit can take anywhere from 18 days on the lowest end of the spectrum to 254 days, with 66 days being the average amount of time needed for most people. So if you have habits you’d like to break, what can you do to get started? Think about the following tactics: 

  • Identify your triggers
  • Change your environment
  • Find an accountability partner
  • Use a reward system
  • Replace your bad habits with new habits that will get you to your goals

Again, we’re definitely not pushing resolutions here, just giving you the knowledge you need to get a little bit healthier every day – and today might just be the day to start on that journey. And we’d like to know: do you have any habits that you’d like to give up? How are you planning to get healthier this year?

Can You Avoid Medications with Lifestyle Changes?

Now that you’re getting older, do you have one of those days of the week pill holders that keeps your multitude of prescription drugs sorted? Or are you dreading having to get one as your health changes? There’s no doubt that aging affects your health, and you might have more trips to the doctor, more monitoring of things like your cholesterol and blood pressure, and yes, more drugs that are prescribed to you to keep everything in working order. But, while you should absolutely be keeping on top of your health and following your doctor’s advice, is it always necessary to be taking a mountain of prescription drugs, or is there a way to avoid some medications with lifestyle changes?

Too Many Medications?hundreds of colorful pills falling on top of each other

If you’re watching your prescriptions pile up, you’re certainly not alone: people over 65 make up less than 14% of the U.S. population, but use approximately 40% of the prescription drugs, filling an average of 14 prescriptions a year (or 18 if they’re over 80)! When broken down even further, research shows that the average older adult takes four or more prescription medications each day, with 39% taking 5 or more every day. Each one is meant to treat or manage a condition, and is important, but each also comes with risks and side effects, which can begin to add up. 

So, while you shouldn’t stop taking anything prescribed by your doctor unless you discuss it with them first, you should also be aware that the more medications you take, the greater your chances of side effects and adverse reactions. You definitely want to talk to your doctor about the number of medications you’re taking if you start to experience:

  • Tiredness, sleepiness or decreased alertness
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Falls and other mobility issues
  • Depression or general lack of interest
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety or excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in sexual behavior
  • Skin rashes

The Psychological Power of Prescriptions

Adverse reactions are not the only issues with taking medications, though. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association had some very interesting findings about how older adults react to being put on medication – and no, it wasn’t that they were unhappy with having to take more pills. In fact, being prescribed medications for things like high cholesterol and high blood pressure often meant that those taking the drugs felt like they could let their healthy habits slide because they were on those medications. For example, the people in the study who were prescribed medications for their conditions:

  • tended to gain more weight. In fact, they were 82% more likely to become obese.
  • exercised less. They were 8% more likely to be physically inactive.

Perhaps some of those people were already lax in their lifestyles, but it’s very likely that some of them felt like they could slack off a bit because they were on medications meant to regulate their health. But the truth is, even if you are prescribed medication, a healthy lifestyle is still extremely important to keeping you fighting fit for as long as possible. But could making some positive changes to your lifestyle actually mean needing fewer medications?

Could These Lifestyle Changes Help?

So if you’re trying to cut down on the meds in your life, what do experts say about whether lifestyle changes can eliminate, or at least reduce the need for prescription drugs? The answer is “sometimes,” and it will definitely take a lot of effort on your part, but your doctor might give you 3 months to “clean up your” act if you’re interested in avoiding certain medications for certain conditions. For example: 

Dealing with high cholesterol

greek salad in a bowl
Changing your diet to healthier options can result in lower cholesterol levels.

High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol is a common (and worrying) problem for older adults, and you might be prescribed a statin to lower your number. But some doctors have seen some very encouraging successes in patients who make lifestyle changes. For example, speaking to a dietician can help you look at how your eating patterns might be contributing to your condition, and reducing your intake of red meat and butter, plus adding in more fruits and veggies can make a big difference. Checking out the Mediterranean diet is a great start!

The other key to avoiding medication for high cholesterol? Exercise! Get into the habit of fitting in 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week, or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise 3 or 4 days of the week, and you could find yourself ditching the pills at some point in the future.

Lowering your blood sugar

If you’re not diabetic, but your blood sugar is on the high end of normal, you might be able to avoid blood-glucose-lowering drugs with some fairly simple lifestyle changes. Cardio workouts can help lower blood sugar, and you’ll really need to focus on your diet, especially the carbohydrates that you’re consuming. Cut down on bread (try to limit yourself to 2 slices a day), chips, and processed foods, and get your carbs from whole grains, brown rice or whole wheat bread and pasta. Focus more on fruits and veggies and other whole foods, drink plenty of water, and try to balance out the carbs you eat with protein – for example, add peanut butter (with no sugar) to your bread. 

Doing some bone-building

If you’ve got osteopenia, or preosteoporosis (bone density at the low end of normal), there are steps you can take to slow down bone loss, and even build bone. First, make sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, and then get started with some strength training! Traditionally, experts have steered older adults towards low-impact strength and weight training to be on the safe side, but studies are now showing that HiRit (high-intensity resistance and impact training), which involves short bursts of intense activity, is actually better than low-impact training in improving bone mineral density in the spine and hip area in older women. Just be sure to get your doctor’s approval before you start any exercise plan, as well as seek out supervision for anything high intensity. 

Easing your back and joint pain

man swimming in a pool
Instead of depending on medicine for joint and back pain, try swimming instead.

Chronic pain stinks, but turning to long-term use of painkillers can cause some serious issues. For example, high doses or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Advil can cause bleeding in the intestines, kidney failure, heart attack, ulcers, and stroke. And if you’ve been given a prescription for something even stronger, like opioids, you could experience drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, addiction, and overdose.

What to try first? Consider yoga, stretching, swimming, tai chi, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, or heat. 

Soothing chronic heartburn

If you’re constantly feeling the burn, you might be on a regiment of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), and this might be totally fine in the short-term to heal your esophagus if you’re suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. But taking these medications long-term can cause reduced stomach acid, which impairs the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients and medication, and increases the risk of gastrointestinal and other infections. They could even increase the risk of fractures, dementia, heart attack, and kidney disease.

To try to deal with heartburn, and avoid reflux, try eating smaller meals, not lying down right after eating, losing excess weight, avoiding trigger foods (like very acidic or greasy foods), and popping a Tums or some Maalox for occasional discomfort.

Remember, talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your lifestyle or your medications. Remember also that everyone is different, and dramatic changes to your lifestyle could make a huge difference in your health and your need for medications – or you might find that you still need all of your prescriptions. But even if you don’t get to the goal of cutting down on your daily pills, making these changes will still be beneficial – and who knows? You might end up needing fewer medications further down the road. Be well!

What To Do If Your Are Denied Life Insurance

Rejection happens to the best of us. Things are no different when it comes to life insurance: some companies might reject your application for a policy. If you get denied for life insurance coverage, you might question why you were denied. There could be a number of reasons, such as your financial history, health, lifestyle, or driving record. But the good news is, just because you’ve been rejected by one company doesn’t mean you can’t get a life insurance policy! Once the shock of being denied has settled, there are steps you can take to find a great, affordable life insurance policy that will give you and your family peace of mind.

tablet with mail on it and microscope over it
If you are denied life insurance, then collect information as to why you were denied to make sure there was no mistake.

Collect Information

The first thing you need to do is begin gathering information in regards to why you were denied life insurance. This will help you to understand what happened, and help figure out if there was some sort of misunderstanding. As an applicant, you have the right to request this information.

Verify Results

One possible reason for your denial could be a simple error. You or the insurance company could have made a mistake when filling out paperwork, or the information you have given could be incomplete. In addition, you could have medical records that have not been updated or are not detailed enough. Double check with the insurance company, your doctor if the problem is related to your health, or the Department of Motor Vehicles if there was an issue with your driving record. If for some reason there was an error, you can appeal the decision with the documentation necessary to reverse the insurance company’s decision.

Make Some Lifestyle Changes

woman's hand rejecting a pack of cigarettes in a man's hand.
If you quit smoking, you can re-apply for life insurance and get a cheaper rate.

If you are denied due to pre-existing conditions, or being a smoker, you can increase your odds of being approved for a different life insurance policy by making some changes. Show that you are willing to manage your conditions with regular exercise and healthy eating. Stop smoking if you can, which will even allow you to get lower rates! And don’t give up: in some cases, a life insurance company will not deny you outright, but will postpone your application a couple of months to give you time to make some changes. They will usually do this if you have had a recent medical diagnosis, so you have time to adjust to the changes and any new medication. 

Explore Your Options!

Life insurance companies all rate the risk of different medical conditions in different ways. So if you are denied because of a medical condition, there might be another company that will provide you with coverage. Remember, too, that there are a number of different types of policies to choose from that will offer your family protection when you are gone. For example, if you get rejected for permanent life insurance, you could still apply for a different type of policy, such as term life insurance, simplified issue life insurance, or final expense life insurance. You will be accepted for simplified issue life insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition, because this type of coverage does not require a medical exam. The possibilities are endless when it comes to getting a life insurance policy, all you have to do is shop around and work with an agent. 

A rejected application doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get life insurance to protect your family and their assets. There are many different life insurance policies to choose from, and even with health conditions, you can find an affordable plan with great coverage. Consider using online tools, or speaking with an agent. We have provided the top insurance companies that offer life insurance policies below; each can give you hassle-free assistance and the most competitive rates in the nation. Always check multiple sites to make sure you have bargaining power and know the advantages of each company. Make sure a hard time isn’t made harder by a financial burden, check life insurance rates today.