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How Metabolism Changes in the Elderly Over Time

By April 10, 2019Nutrition

As you age, your body undergoes a variety of changes. One of these has to do with your metabolism, which begins to slow as you get older and are less active. This can lead to other health issues, and/or complicate existing ones. This is especially common with elderly patients who are in a nursing home or assisted living facility. For beneficiaries of EEOICPA and RECA programs, patients may be eligible for free home healthcare services, which allows you to keep a closer eye on your elderly family member.

Metabolism Slows as You Age

Your metabolism changes over time. There is no set age where a switch is flipped and suddenly one morning everything slows. It’s a progressive change that can be influenced by hormonal shifts over time, not in one night. You may not be able to avoid the changes to your metabolism completely, but you can slow them down or push them off some by adopting different lifestyle habits.

When you’re sitting and doing nothing, the number of calories burned at rest is known as the basal metabolic rate. Your body will burn some calories through breathing, repairing cells, and adjusting hormones. Everyone’s rate is different depending on how active you are each day and your body’s composition, genetics, age, gender, etc.

For women, the biggest changes in metabolism can happen around the time of menopause, which is around 50 years old on average. Hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism, so the decrease in estrogen that occurs with menopause can have a huge impact.

Your pituitary gland produces a growth hormone which can also impact metabolism as it slows down with age. The hormone is important throughout life as it helps build muscle mass, effectively utilize fat stores, and boost your protein production. Once there is a decrease in this hormone, your body doesn’t maintain or make muscle as well, and that can have a subsequent effect on how your body processes calories.


Pharmacokinetics deals with the body’s ability to process medication, which includes the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the drug. As people age, the way your body reacts to a particular drug can change. The metabolism and excretion can slow down, which means the drug dosage may need to be decreased.

Age-related changes to the liver can influence its function and subsequent metabolism of medication. The first is a reduction in overall liver size and a reduction in the blood flow. Some medications can cause faster metabolism in the liver while others reduce liver enzymes that cause slower metabolism. This is important because there can be various drug interactions, especially when one medication is added or removed, or the dosage changed.

Ways to Prevent Your Metabolism from Slowing Down as You Age

There are some ways you can try to prevent your metabolism from slowing down as you age. Some options to consider include:

  • Resistance Training: Resistance training is also known as weight lifting, which is a great alternative for helping prevent a slowing metabolism. It can preserve muscle mass while exercising, both of which affect how fast your metabolism works.
  • Get Plenty of Sleep: A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Getting a good night sleep can help reverse slowing metabolism in many cases. It is believed that lack of sleep, or poor sleep, can also increase the risk of muscle loss, which can also slow down metabolism.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can also help your metabolism from slowing down. This is a training exercise that alternates between short periods of anaerobic exercises with shorter periods of rest. It’s believed that HIIT can continue to burn calories hours later because your muscles need to use more energy to recover after exercising.
  • Not Eating Enough: This is something that some elderly struggle with as they aren’t as active, so they don’t eat much or have very low-calorie diets. This can trigger your body to start “starvation mode” and cause a loss in muscle mass, which is not ideal for older people.
  • Eat Foods That are High in Protein: High protein foods are important in helping prevent a slowdown of your metabolism. Your body burns additional calories when eating and absorbing foods that are high in protein. Protein can also help preserve muscle mass as you age too.
  • Green Tea: Green tea has plant compounds and caffeine which can help raise your resting metabolism.

Getting the Right Care for Your Elderly Family Members

Getting the proper care for aging family members is important. When the situation warrants, you may need to consider an assisted living facility or nursing home who can better help take care of your loved ones. For EEOICPA and RECA beneficiaries, there may be an option for free home healthcare services as well. An energy workers compensation program can be of great value to your loved one. Contact United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care today to find out more about EEOICPA and RECA programs.