5 Key Ways to Lose Weight After 50
Why it gets harder to drop pounds after a certain age — and how to do it successfully
by Hallie Levine, AARP, May 9, 2018
There’s plenty you can do to take control of your weight as you get older.
Whether you’ve battled the bulge for what seems like forever — or just since your last birthday — it’s true that age can have a lot to do with the number on the scale. As with crow’s-feet and varicose veins, you’re simply more susceptible to gaining weight once you hit the big 5-0. And it’s not your imagination: It also becomes increasingly more challenging to shed those pounds once they’ve settled around your hips.
“The two big reasons people tend to gain weight as they get older are loss of muscle mass and decreased activity,” explains Caroline Apovian, M.D., a weight-loss specialist at Boston University Medical Center. People experience a 5 to 10 percent loss of muscle mass each decade after age 50, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. As a result, your resting metabolic rate declines by an average of 2 to 3 percent every decade.
And this means you can be eating the exact same amount that you did at 40 — not a morsel more — and still gain weight.
Becoming more sedentary with age can also skew the equation, especially if you begin to develop arthritis or other joint issues that restrict activity. “As we get older, we spend less time running around and physical activity decreases,” Apovian points out. “But as you get older, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them.”
And while these facts are sobering, there’s plenty you can do to take control. “You’re not doomed to failure! I’m 60, and I have more muscle on my body than I did when I was 30,” Apovian says with pride.
It’s true that few of us may have the time or energy to follow Apovian’s grueling workout schedule (she rises at 5 a.m. most days to either swim for an hour or run six miles on her treadmill), but we can follow her advice, as well as that of other leading obesity specialists, on how to fit into our jeans once we enter our sixth decade and beyond.
Pile on the protein
“Protein supplementation can help build back muscle mass, which reverses the decline in metabolism,” explains Apovian. She recommends making sure that between 30 and 40 percent of your daily calories come from protein, depending on your body weight. (Imagine a lean piece of meat or fish taking up one third of your plate, and you get the idea.) By contrast, the average American gets about 16 percent of his or her food intake from protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You’ll also build more muscle if you spread your protein intake out evenly throughout the day. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming an equal amount of protein at all three meals is linked to more muscle strength in people over age 67. To even out your intake, try adding an egg or yogurt to your breakfast, a glass of milk or a handful of nuts to your lunch, and scaling back on your protein source at dinner.
Join the resistance
While any sort of exercise can help you shed girth, it’s very important that you lift weights at least twice a week to build muscle mass, which will help you lose weight. In one study, 60-something overweight adults who pumped iron lost more weight and lost less muscle mass over 18 months than those who just hoofed it for exercise. “Any sort of opportunity to build muscle — even if it’s just working with light resistance bands or swimming in a pool — will raise your metabolism and, thus, help you burn calories,” explains Reshmi Srinath, M.D., an endocrinologist and obesity specialist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
And keep in mind that you don’t have to do much to see results. People who lifted weights just twice a week gained about three pounds of muscle after 10 weeks, according to a review published in Current Sports Medicine Reports.
Beyond strength training, if you can take your overall exercise program up a notch, do so. Older adults who did high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which entails short spurts of high-intensity exercise, not only lost weight but also had less DNA damage to muscle cells. And this helped trigger growth of new muscle.
Get enough shut-eye
“Research has consistently shown that people who are overweight or obese get less sleep than those of normal weight,” stresses Apovian. “When you’re sleep deprived, your body ramps up its production of hormones that increase hunger, like the stress hormone cortisol and the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin.” Older men (over age 67) who get less than five hours of sleep a night are almost four times as likely to be obese as those who get between seven and eight, and older women are more than twice as likely, according to a Case Western Reserve University study.
It’s also a good idea to keep your sleep schedule consistent, meaning you get up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Older men and women who don’t follow this healthy habit add another risk factor for being obese into the mix, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity.
Try occasional fasting
We’re not talking juice cleanses. Rather, research now shows that a specific type of intermittent fasting, known as fasting-mimicking, can trigger weight loss as well as improve your overall health. People who followed this type of diet plan — where they consumed only 750 to 1,000 calories five days out of each month but otherwise ate normally — lost, on average, six pounds, shed one to two inches of their waistline, and saw both their blood pressure and levels of IGF-1 (a substance linked to increased cancer risk) drop significantly, according to a University of Southern California study published last year.
How might it work? “When you gain weight, the nerves in your hypothalamus that conduct signals from your fat cells to the rest of your brain become damaged,” says Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Clinical Research at Weill Cornell Medical College. “As a result, your brain doesn’t realize that you’re full, so it keeps signaling you to eat.”
But when you take a day to not eat very much, he says, “you’re reducing stress on your hypothalamic nerves, so it gives them time to recuperate.” That day of rest for your nerves could be especially important for older people, he says, because of the damage that oxidative stress can further do to your weight-regulating system.
As for how to start, “I tell patients who want to try it to eat only about 800 calories twice a week, focusing mainly on vegetables, protein and healthy oils such as olive oil,” he says.
To help yourself feel fuller longer on days you’re not fasting, Aronne recommends following a low-carb diet in which about 30 percent of your calories come from protein and the rest from nonstarchy veggies, nuts and beans. Craving bread? “I tell patients that the best time to eat these types of starchy carbohydrates is at the very end of the meal, after they’ve had their veggies and protein,” he says. Aronne’s research shows that people who eat this way not only have lower levels of blood sugar and insulin after eating but also have bigger boosts in hormones like GLP 1, which help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Practice mindful eating
If you think your weight gain may have something to do with midlife stress (aging parents, college tuition bills and managerial responsibilities at work, anyone?), this approach may be especially helpful to have in your weight-loss toolbox. “A lot of times eating, especially mindless eating, can be stress related, and meditation techniques can be helpful in terms of both alleviating anxiety and making you more conscious of how much you’re consuming,” explains Apovian.
People who practice this technique — which involves paying attention to how hungry or full you feel, planning meals and snacks, eating as a singular activity (without, say, also reading the paper or watching TV), and zeroing in on how your food really tastes — may be more successful at weight loss. People who participated in an online mindfulness-based weight-loss program, for instance, lost more weight (on average, about 4.2 pounds) than a control group, according to a North Carolina State University study presented last year at the European Congress on Obesity.
Need some tips to get you started? Eat slowly (put your fork down between bites, and chew your food well), try to have meals without any outside distractions, and follow the one-bite rule when it comes to favorite but fattening foods like desserts.
Reprinted from AARP.
There are plenty of reputable contests and sweepstakes out there (including some from AARP), and let’s be honest, winning feels great! However, there are questionable characters out there who are trying to hook you on winning to reel in the profits for themselves.
How it Works
You’re told you’ve won a prize but:
- You have to pay a fee to collect your winnings;
- You have to wire money to a well-known company to insure delivery of the prize;
- You have to deposit a check they have sent you;
- Your notice was mailed by bulk rate;
- You have to attend a sales meeting to win.
What You Should Know:
- You cannot win a contest you did not enter. Don’t believe claims saying that you were automatically entered.
- Playing a foreign lottery is illegal. If you’re told that your name was entered in a foreign lottery, know it is a scam.
- Remember- if you have to pay to receive it, it’s not a prize. It’s a scam!
What You Should Do:
- Be vigilant. The Federal Trade Commission recommends looking up a contest or promoter in a search engine with the words “scam” or “complaint”.
- Warn others. If you think you’ve been targeted by a prize scam, report it at www.ftc.gov/complaint and share on the Fraud Watch Network scam-tracking map.
- Report spam texts that offer gifts, gift cards, or free services to your carrier, then delete the message
According to a new AARP survey, more than three-quarters of Americans over age 65 know little or nothing about the federal government’s initiative to replace their Medicare cards. And that makes them susceptible to scammers intent on taking advantage of the confusion.
Individuals new to Medicare are receiving the updated card, which displays a unique combination of 11 letters and numbers rather than a beneficiary’s Social Security number (SSN). Current beneficiaries will begin receiving their replacement cards next month.
AARP found that 60 percent of those surveyed mistakenly believe they might have to pay for the revamped cards. The new cards are free. And more than half of respondents said they might not be suspicious if they received a call — supposedly from Medicare — asking them to verify their SSNs as a prerequisite to getting a new card. Medicare officials have emphasized that they will never call beneficiaries about the cards, which are being mailed out by the Social Security Administration.
“The new Medicare cards are a step forward for fraud prevention, but con artists are working overtime on new ways to scam seniors,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer.
Scammers posing as Medicare representatives have already been calling beneficiaries demanding a processing fee. Other fraudsters are telling beneficiaries that they are owed a refund from transactions on their old card and then asking for bank account information to process the reimbursement. Medicare will never ask an enrollee for a bank account number, and no refunds are owed.
AARP’s telephone survey reached 800 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network provides more prevention tips and advice on card-replacement and other types of scams. Consumers can also sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails to get regular updates on new scams.
Most telephone scammers rely on talk, getting you to pick up the phone so they can give their impersonations of IRS agents, noble fundraisers, tech-support saviors or grandkids in need. But with a new breed of telephone fraudsters, sometimes you don’t even need to say “Hello” to get ripped off. Here’s how some of these crooks may target you.
Call Center Fraud
There are scam artists who spend hours calling the customer service centers of banks, insurance companies and other institutions, posing as people like you, to try to access accounts. These crimes have more than doubled in the past year. “That’s because reps only ask a couple of simple authentication questions — maybe your mother’s maiden name or your Social Security number — before you can transfer money or do whatever,” explains Ken Shuman of Pindrop, a company that provides antifraud services to call centers.
Scammers start by assembling information on you, stolen in data breaches, purchased on the “dark web” or gleaned with a simple Google search. Then, working from boiler rooms (often overseas), they spend all day phoning different call centers to determine if you have accounts with those companies. With your data in hand, they can often answer the authentication questions that call centers ask.
ATM PINs are especially prized — and vulnerable, adds Shuman. He notes that there are only 10,000 possible combinations for a four-digit PIN. Unless a bank’s system blocks calls after several tries — and some don’t — there are scammers who call back 150 times a day, trying different PINs until they get it right. Then they immediately log in as you, change your PIN and take over your account.
An ever-growing segment of the 20 billion text messages sent each day are attempts at defrauding people through “smishing” (a word that combines the SMS technology that sends text messages and phishing, a ploy to coax confidential information out of you). Typically, a scam texter will fake a problem with one of your financial accounts and ask you for data. Or they might pitch low-cost mortgages or credit cards, or promise free gift cards. If you respond by texting back confidential personal information, your identity may be stolen. Millions of these smishing texts can be launched simultaneously.
Your best defense is to be stingy with your phone number. Scam texts may result if you provide it to contests, say, or businesses. Mobile apps can also be to blame. When you install them, the fine print in the user agreement may grant permission to the app’s developer to use or sell your phone number and sometimes even the numbers of your contacts. In one recently popular scheme, scammers get your contacts from mobile apps, then text you posing as people you know to seek money or ID-theft-worthy information, says Jonathan Sasse, marketing executive at First Orion, a digital security firm that provides the mobile app PrivacyStar.
One more important tip: Never follow a text’s instructions to push a designated key to opt out of future messages. Instead, forward the questionable text to short code 7726, so cellphone carrierscan block that sender. You can further bolster defenses against mobile scams — which have quadrupled in the past two years — with call-blocking apps such as Hiya, Truecaller, NoMoRobo and PrivacyStar.
Knowing that you are likely to ignore unrecognized or private numbers on caller ID, today’s crooks use software that allows them to display fake numbers that are hard to resist. Here are some variations.
- The neighbor ploy Your area code and prefix are displayed, so the call appears to be from a neighbor or nearby business. “Fewer people are comfortable blocking local numbers, increasing scammers’ success rates,” notes Jonathan Nelson of Hiya. And the fake number makes it hard for law enforcement to track.
- The “Hey, there’s a call from my own phone number” scam It’s hard to resist answering a call from your own number, which scammers can simulate. And they are able to get around any call blocking that you’ve set up.
- The one-ring rip-off Criminals sometimes program auto-dialers to make repeated calls to you, each disconnecting after just one ring. They know this might spur you into calling back the displayed number to complain. There’s double trouble if you call area codes such as 268, 664 and 876. These are for Caribbean countries and other places that have high per-minute phone charges. One scam involves getting you to call one of those numbers, then getting you to hold through transfers that rack up your bill until a scammer gets on the line and starts a fraudulent pitch.
Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.
Scammers are now going to the federal Social Security website and setting up a “my Social Security” account of citizens that are of retirement age. They hijack their accounts by setting up the accounts before the Social Security number owner does, and then they apply for funds. The scammers get a lump sum money of back pay out and the money is transferred to an account the scammers set up and then they take that money and immediately put it on gift cards. Beat scammers to the punch by setting up your own “my Social Security” account today at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.
As tax season reaches its peak, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued its annual list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.
Some of the frauds on the government’s list are examples of how taxpayers are being preyed upon, such as email phishing attempts or identity theft. Others are ways Americans are cheating on their returns, such as inflating refund claims or padding deductions.
“Taxpayers need to guard against ploys to steal their personal information,” the IRS says in a statement announcing the list. “And they should be wary of shady promoters trying to scam them out of money or talk them into engaging in questionable tax schemes.”
Although scamming is most popular as tax day — April 17 this year — approaches, the IRS advises taxpayers to be on the lookout throughout the year.
Hiya Inc., which monitors phone scamming, says on its blog that “from calls threatening to take legal action, sending arrest warrants, filing lawsuits, and requesting financial and personal information, Hiya still sees the oldest tricks in the book trending in 2018.”
Here are the Dirty Dozen list’s scams against taxpayers:
- Phishing: You should watch for potential fake emails or websites seeking personal information. The IRS will never send you an email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on a message claiming to be from the IRS.
- Phone Scams: Scammers who impersonate IRS agents are an ongoing threat. Some con artists who use this ploy have threatened taxpayers with deportation, arrest and revocation of their licenses if they fail to follow the scammers’ instructions.
- Identity Theft: You should guard against possible identity theft. While the IRS has worked to better detect tax-return related identity theft, it reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime by protecting their personal data.
- Tax-Return Preparer Fraud: Watch out for unscrupulous tax-return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals are honest. But some dishonest preparers scam clients, perpetuating refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.
- Fake Charities: Groups posing as charitable organizations solicit donations. Some of these groups use names similar to nationally known organizations to deceive consumers. The status of charities can be checked using tools found at IRS.gov.
- Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds. If a tax preparer asks you to sign a blank return, promises you a big refund before looking at your records, or charges fees based on a percentage of your refund, they are probably up to no good.
The Dirty Dozen list also includes these ways taxpayers are cheating the IRS, sometimes with a little help from con artists:
- Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Don’t improperly claim the fuel tax credit. Taxpayers also should avoid misuse of the research credit. The IRS tends to closely scrutinize the use of these credits.
- Padding Deductions: You should avoid the temptation to illegally inflate deductions like charitable gifts.
- Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Con artists may persuade unsuspecting taxpayers to invent income to wrongly qualify for tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Frivolous Tax Arguments: Some schemes urge taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims. Those who file a frivolous tax return face a possible penalty of $5,000.
- Phony Tax Shelters: The IRS says it is committed to cracking down on complex tax-avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. Be on the lookout for fraudsters promoting tax shelters that sound too good to be true.
- Offshore Tax Avoidance: It’s a bad bet to hide money and income in offshore accounts because the IRS has had lots of success in thwarting these schemes.
reprinted from AARP Fraud Network
The new shingles vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people 50 and older is now widely available in pharmacies and with physicians.
Testing found that Shingrix, which received Food and Drug Administration approval last fall, was 97 percent effective in adults 50 to 69 and 91 percent effective in those 70 and older. Those are far better results than provided by the previous vaccine, Zostavax, which was recommended for people 60 and up.
CVS announced this week that Shingrix is available in its stores nationwide, making it the latest of major chain pharmacies — including Walgreens, Duane Reed, Walmart and Albertsons — to have it. It has been available to doctors since late November, but patients should check with their own physicians to determine whether they can get the shots there.
Shingrix is taken in two doses separated by two to six months. Zostavax, the previously recommended vaccine, was a one-shot dose. The CDC says even those who have received a Zostavax shot should get the new drug, as should those who have had shingles.
The CDC estimates that for every 1 million people 60 to 69 years old who receive Shingrix, there will be 87,000 fewer cases of shingles, as well as 10,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia (severe pain in the location of a previous shingles rash). The vaccine is also projected to lead to 80,000 fewer cases of shingles among people 50 to 59 years old, with 5,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia.
In addition to checking with individual pharmacies and physicians about the availability of the vaccine, those of eligible age should check with health insurance providers to see whether the shots are covered. Medicare Part D covers Shingrix, but Medicare Part B does not.
As we enter tax-filing season, it pays to be aware of the signs that point to possible tax identity theft.
How It Works:
Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax refund or to get a job.
What You Should Know:
- If the IRS receives a duplicate tax return filing using your Social Security number, you will receive a written notice through the mail.
- Likewise, the IRS will send a notice if you have unreported income or that you and someone else are claiming the same dependents.
- The IRS will not initiate contact with you by e-mail, text or social media.
To Reduce Your Risk Of Being Victimized By Tax Identity Theft:
- Submit your tax return as early in the tax season as possible.
- Be careful what you share – don’t give out your personal information unless you know who is asking and why, and don’t be shy about refusing.
- Dispose of sensitive information safely – shred it with a micro-cut shredder.
- Know your tax preparer.
Check the status of your refund after filing at www.irs.gov/refunds. If you think someone filed a fraudulent refund with your information, call the IRS Identity Theft line at 800-908-4490. To learn more, visit www.ftc.gov/taxidtheft.