You have an overactive thyroid.
Weight loss is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) says Anne Cappola, M.D., an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. This means your thyroid—the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that helps regulate your metabolism and growth—is pumping out too many hormones, resulting in a slew of body changes.
“If I suspected a thyroid issue, I’d probably look for increased hunger or heart palpitations,” she explains. Sleeping problems or feeling hot all the time are also common symptoms of an overactive thyroid, she says.
Treatment: Medication is often required to manage an overactive thyroid condition.
You’re not eating enough.
Dr. Hildreth mentions something experts refer to as the “obesity paradox.” Later in life, weight loss—not weight gain—is associated with a greater risk of death. “As we age, the stomach empties more slowly, which makes you feel fuller longer,” she says. “Also, some of the brain signals that control appetite and fullness become attenuated,” Dr. Hildreth adds. All of this can lead to older adults eating less, losing weight, and failing to get enough nutrients to support their bodies’ needs.
Treatment: Consult a registered dietitian or healthcare professional and find a meal plan that works for you. Be sure you’re eating enough protein to help your body carry out important bodily functions, like curbing hunger, stabilizing blood sugar, and building muscle mass—which people lose as they get older. “Many medications can also affect your appetite, so you need to pay attention to how much and how often you’re eating,” Dr. Hildreth adds.