Obesity affects people at every age, from the very youngest of children to elderly adults who have celebrated 100 or more birthdays. But obesity in the elderly is an issue that needs to be discussed more frequently because of the potential diseases caused by obesity and how being overweight puts seniors at risk.
Here is some information about the dangers of obesity in the elderly, the importance of maintaining a healthy weight as you age, and how to prevent obesity-related health risks.
Effects of Obesity at any Age
The term “obesity” is typically defined as having a body weight that is at least 20 percent higher than it should be. But in older adults, it may be more appropriate to examine the circumference of the waist to measure adiposity.
People become obese by eating too many calories per day, not exercising frequently, consuming foods that interfere with good metabolism, taking certain medications, or by having certain medical conditions. At any age, the effects of obesity include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, type-2 diabetes, and heart failure. Individuals who are obese may experience mobility problems and require assistive technology, such as stairlifts, to get around the house and into and out of vehicles. Obesity may also affect a person’s mood and lead to depression and other mental disorders.
Specific Dangers of Obesity in Seniors
In seniors specifically, the dangers of obesity include lower quality of life and reduced lifespan. Seniors who are obese are also more likely to develop serious medical conditions and be less resilient to common illnesses, like colds and the flu. Seniors often face isolation in the later years of life, and being obese can cause seniors to isolate themselves even more from society
Diseases Caused by Obesity
Although do not believe that the simple fact of carrying more weight than your body handle causes any one disease, many diseases are more likely and made worse if you are overweight or obese. For example, obesity in the elderly is a top cause for diabetes, heart disease, joint disorders, and cancers. Other conditions that are linked to obesity include gout, gallbladder disease, asthma, liver disease, and kidney disease.
How to Prevent and Treat Obesity in the Elderly
It can be very difficult for seniors to lose weight once they have reached a stage of obesity, so it is best to maintain a healthy weight and follow a healthy nutrition program as you age to avoid potential health risks.
To prevent obesity, seniors should try to get a little exercise every day to get the blood circulating, the heart rate up, and the joints moving. Walking is a great exercise for seniors because it is low impact and gets you outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Strength training is also important for seniors, even if it’s just lifting a three- or five-pound dumbbell or a can of soup at home. Because the body’s metabolism starts to decline already in our 30s, seniors and caregivers of seniors must pay close attention to the number of calories consumed versus the number of calories burnt through exercise. Discuss any new exercise or weight loss program with your doctor to ensure it is safe and effective for what your body needs. With obesity rates on the rise every year in America’s senior population, it is so important to address the early signs of obesity early so they are easier to reverse and treat.