Where did my 20-year-old body go?
Age may be just a number, but the physical changes
that creep up as the birthdays add up are very real.
"Aside from the natural wear and tear our bodies
experience as we age," says Andrew Cohen, MD,
Virtua family physician, "there are specific metabolic
changes that impact our daily activities."
Here are some simple explanations as to why
your body isn't what it used to be.
I used to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.
Now, I ache just thinking about it.
Decreased muscle mass may be to blame for this
age-related nuisance. "No two people metabolize
alcohol at the same rate," says Dr. Cohen. "Body
weight, muscle mass, and gender impact our
ability to clear alcohol from our systems." As we
age, muscle mass declines, increasing the effects
of a glass of wine.
He adds that while some studies suggest
certain foods or liquids in our stomach can
affect alcohol absorption, one thing remains
clear: "Moderation is the key. Drink responsibly
and maintain a healthy diet."
I'm eating exactly what I did when I was 20.
Why am I gaining weight?
Mary Campagnolo, MD, chief of family medicine at
Virtua Memorial, says the answer is simple: "As we
get older, our bodies require less calories to maintain
weight." So, what you ate when you were twentysomething,
may be too much food for your fiftysomething-
year-old body today.
"Though metabolism does slow as we age, there
are things we can do to combat weight gain," she
says. "Maintain a healthy lifestyle complete with a
diet that is rich in nutrients, and exercise to prevent
obesity and obesity-related illnesses."
I used to dance for exercise. I'd like to start again,
but my body isn't bouncing back like it did before.
Dr. Cohen has a lot of experience working with
athletes, and often sees many exercisers who overdo
it in the first few weeks of a new training program.
"Recovery is just as important as exercise itself," he
says. "Exercise is a wonderful way to keep your body
healthy but too much can be detrimental. Try to
incorporate a balanced workout rather than focus
on one activity."
I never used to get heartburn. Now, it wakes
me up from a night's sleep.
Eating a big meal too soon before bed can cause
heartburn. "As we get older, it takes a bit longer
to digest food, especially when lying down," says
Dr. Campagnolo. "In that position, acid from
your stomach can seep into your esophagus and
A healthy diet along with avoiding big meals
two to three hours before bedtime may solve
your problem. If not, try an over-the-counter
medicine to reduce acid production. And, if
heartburn persists for more than two weeks,
see your physician.
Want three rules for a healthy life?
Read Dr. Campagnolo's simple tips for healthy living