Not a day goes by that at least one patient asks me if his or her metabolism has slowed and caused them to gain weight unexpectedly. Slowdown in our basal metabolism rate not only can cause us to gain weight, it can also create all sorts of problems for our health including cardiovascular conditions and diabetes. Therefore it is important for us to understand what this syndrome is and what we can do about changing it.
Metabolism is a basic and vital process in our body in which food and drink are converted into nutrients and energy. Our body is constant-ly adjusting itself to digest and break down food, deploying the energy and nutrients from them towards what we need in our daily life. Even when we are sleeping and resting, we are still burning this energy for breathing, blood circulation, digestion, mental activities, and other bodily processes. The amount of energy (or the number of calories) that your body uses for these basic functions and processes is known as the basal body metabolic rate, or BMR in short.
When your body’s metabolism is disturbed it can cause metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions which includes increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, excessive body fat around the waist (abdominal obesity), and unusually high serum cholesterol or triglyceride levels. If these symptoms occur all together it can increase our risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and having a stroke. If you just have one of these conditions, this does not mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, you might be at a higher risk of contracting it. The good news is that it can be controlled and even “cured” if you can make substantial changes to your lifestyle. The following risk factors increase your chance of a disturbed or slowed down metabolism, or having metabolic syndrome:
Age: As we get older, our metabolism slows down naturally. Our peak metabolic rate usually occurs in our 20s and begins to slow down one to two percent per year beginning in our 30s. As we get older, we tend to gain weight where the fat mass increases and muscle mass tends to decrease. This further decreases the amount of energy we burn, leading to a downward spiral for our metabolism.
Ethnicity: Metabolic Syndrome tends to run in families, and is more common among Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Asians.
Body Size and Obesity: Having too much weight, especially in your abdomen, increases the risk of metabolic syndrome. Athletes and people with muscular builds tend to burn more calories so they are more likely to have faster metabolic rate.
Stress: Work, relationship stress, and depres-sion can all cause your hormone cortisol level to go up which can stimulate overeating and weight gain. Exercise tends to mitigate this effect and reduces one’s stress.
Gender: Women’s bodies are designed to carry a child and are able to endure more dramatic inner body changes. Because of that, women tend to have higher body fat percentage and lower muscle mass than men of the same age.
Sleep deficit: Research has shown not having enough restful sleep can slow down one’s metabolism. For some people, this can mean a dramatic increase of up to 10 lb. per year.