Getting older (not old) means facing moments of truth about health decisions made earlier in life. What’s going on now with metabolism, bones, and health may be the result of decisions made during the teen years, when planning for the future seemed so far off!
Let’s look at my metabolism. I assumed that it was pretty high – I am warm most of the time, I work on muscle building at the gym, and I am a lifelong fidgeter. What a surprise when I measured my resting metabolic rate (RMR), i.e., calorie burning, using the pretty nifty BodyGem. My RMR was at the lowest end of the normal range for someone of my age and size. Where did I mess up? Losing too much weight too quickly in and after college, and causing my metabolism to drop? Maintaining a body weight that is too low for where my body wants to be? Not building more muscle when I was younger, before the inevitable post-menopausal muscle melt set in? I don’t know the answer, but it’s clear that I need to keep exercising and taking the neighbor’s dog for walks every day to be able to eat enough food for a balanced diet.
Another surprise was the result of my recent bone density testing. My mom has osteoporosis so I’ve been taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for the past several years. My blood work looks good and I’m healthy. But I have low bone density in my spine. The only explanation my doctor and I could come up with is that I didn’t get enough calcium to build up my body’s stores during the all-important teen years. Now, at an age when the body naturally takes calcium from bones, I have too little on deposit and have overdrawn my calcium account. Short of taking medications that help rebuild bone, there’s no turning back. Still, I have at least 2 cups of milk every day, along with one of my favorite foods that happens to be high in calcium, cheese. And it turns out that cheese might not affect blood cholesterol, which is great news! Can’t wait to pick out some cheese from a favorite retailer, DeCicco and Sons in Millwood.
And now, my heart health. Heart disease runs in the family so I do as much as possible to keep my cardiovascular system in good shape – maintain a healthy weight, exercise, avoid smoking, eat healthfully. What I haven’t been doing is taking a fish oil or omega-3 supplement. Omega-3s benefit heart health by helping reduce serum triglycerides, maintain function of the arteries and heart muscle, and control inflammation. And sure enough, my blood omega-3 index is in the “needs improvement” range. So it’s time to start. Because I am very nervous about the infamous “fish burps” associated with omega-3-rich fish oil supplements, I’ll be trying both fish oil and an algae-based omega-3 product to see which one gets along best with my stomach.