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Weight Gain After 40? Maybe It's Stress

Hormones make women especially vulnerable

If you're over 40 and under stress, a self-perpetuating cycle of factors can fuel the urge to snack at the wrong times. The resulting weight gain often piles up around the abdomen, which boosts the risk of heart disease. CBC News adds that carrying excess weight also boosts the risk of stroke. Although the stroke study included only men, doctors say the results should apply to both sexes.

One physician says that people may be able to avoid the hazards of weight gain in midlife by learning when the body is vulnerable to stress and choosing the right sort of snacks. Dr. Pamela Peeke, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, says that the slowing metabolism of people over 40 makes them more vulnerable to stress, which releases hormones that stimulate both appetite and the storage of fat. The approach of menopause puts women even more at risk due to waning sex hormones.

A feature from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes Peeke's strategy for short-circuiting the stress-weight gain cycle. She even encourages mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. But Peeke says throw out fat-free foods that substitute sugar for fat, and avoid refined starches like white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.

High-fiber, whole-grain alternatives break the cycle that stimulates hunger. Fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese work, too.

Consumer News