Another year, another loosening of the belt. A slowing metabolism and creeping weight gain seem to be natural, inevitable consequences of the adding of years.

Natural, yes. Inevitable, no.

A human body is made up of lean tissue (muscles and organs), fat, bones and water. After age 30, people tend to lose lean tissue because of damaged muscle cells and decreases in growth hormone, testosterone, and estrogen. Lean tissue stimulates metabolism, so decrease in muscle leads to increase in fat, which activates glucose uptake and fat production, which in turn inhibits the burning of fat and stored glucose. A vicious cycle, indeed.

It is one of the most common and important conversations I have with my patients about their long-term health. Loosening the belt is the most innocuous result of weight gain. Other consequences are far more serious: being overweight can degrade health, leading to chronic issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease; joint problems; and loss of balance. Obesity raises mortality risk, especially for heart disease.

Furthermore, evidence increasingly indicates that obesity can erode cognitive abilities and mental acuity and increase your chances of developing several types of cancer.

Weight gain may be a natural consequence of the aging process, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Doctor-directed weight-loss programs, like those at my Oak Park membership medical practice, WellcomeMD, can help each patient find the right balance between fitness and nutrition. A wise program includes:

Regular exercise. Countless studies have shown that exercise helps muscle cells get bigger, stronger and better able to metabolize energy. Of course, the younger you are, the easier it is to break bad habits as well as lose excess pounds. If you haven’t already been paying attention to fitness, the lost muscle mass and balance can make exercise even more daunting, but it’s never too late to find an activity for you.

I was delighted by the story of Robert Marchand, who at age 102 broke his world record for the number of miles biked in one hour that he previously set at age 100! Earlier this year, he competed again at age 105. Though he didn’t break his distance record, it was quite a sight.

Eat a healthy diet. Include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and the right amounts of healthy fats, and avoid highly processed foods.

Be good to your body. Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco products and illicit drugs.

An effective weight-loss program not only requires the guidance of a health-care professional but should be tailored to each patient’s needs. At WellcomeMD, we take the extra time to develop and manage a plan that works for you.

Our members have no-delay, no-rush office visits and quick access to the doctor via cell phone and email. They have the advantage of a comprehensive, 2.5-hour annual physical exam, which includes testing and consultation with a dietitian and a professional physical trainer. Call WellcomeMD at 708-455-2094 for a free consultation and a tour of the practice, or visit us at

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