As we get older, we all have experienced the metabolism changes that occur in our bodies; some subtle, some a bit more obvious.
We look back at our teens and twenties with nostalgia for the ability to eat anything we wanted, going for days on end without a full night’s sleep and never paying the consequences. But as we head into our thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond, it becomes harder and harder to maintain that lifestyle. Age, hormones and metabolic changes all play a part in these changes. These hormonal changes actually slow down our basal metabolic rate as we age. Although we are not completely in control of how our bodies respond to the decrease in hormones and a slower metabolic rate, science has shown that there are things we can do. But first, we have to understand how menopause and andropause are affected by these processes.
Basal Metabolic Rate
This magic number defines how well our bodies burn calories at rest and is controlled by hormones. Our metabolic state remains fairly stable when we are younger, but as we age and our hormone levels fluctuate, we may find that our basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases. But these changes are only part of the reason for changes as we age. Lifestyle changes also play a part in it. These systemic and hormonal changes are different in men and women.
Menopause and Metabolism
As women get older, they approach a complex change in their hormones. Menopause brings on a decrease in estrogen and an increase in testosterone. These two hormones have a noticeable change in multiple systems including the endocrine and metabolic system itself. Women may experience an increased appetite and decreased sex drive. They may find themselves eating more, moving less and gaining weight, especially around the abdomen. They may also experience muscle loss. Muscle is more metabolically active tissue and will be affected by lower hormones and metabolic rate. Vitamin deficiency can also occur. Some women even develop metabolic syndrome as they approach and enter menopause. It can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and insulin resistance as well as other symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment for these issues.
Andropause and Aging
Although it is not as commonly known, men experience a similar hormonal change called andropause. Men may experience the beginning fluctuations in their late twenties but really start to see a decrease in their main hormones in their forties. Testosterone, androstenedione, human growth hormone, and DHEA all start to gradually lower. There may also be an increase in testosterone binding proteins which will affect levels. Men may notice changes in mood, lower sex drive, changes in hair and skin quality and many other physical symptoms. Hormone replacement can also be used for men. Testosterone replacement can be effective for men who are experiencing this. The metabolic symptoms that occur from low testosterone respond well to hormone therapy.
Countering Metabolic Aging
We may not have complete control over how much our metabolic system slows down as we age, but we can help minimize some of the effects. One of the most effective methods of maintaining an active metabolic system as we age is strength training. Since more muscle mass boosts your basal metabolic rate, you will burn more calories with it. Eating enough protein and staying hydrated also helps your systems stay optimized. Proper diet and exercise will help you fight the effects longer.
Medical advances have helped us to better understand the connection to basal metabolic rate to aging. Although we are not able to completely halt the effects of aging, we can help keep the changes more gradual and smaller. Metabolic changes, menopause, andropause, and aging are all conditions that we’ll deal with, but we can make them manageable.