January is National Weight Awareness Month in The United States and while many of us don’t think about obesity in older adults, carrying around that excess weight can have a detrimental effect on seniors. Not only can it shorten their lifespan it can dramatically decrease their quality of life as well.
But weight gain is not a natural part of the aging process. In fact, historical data shows that Americans—regardless of their age—are putting on more weight now than ever before.
Obesity in Older Adults is a Growing Problem
A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that obesity in older adults is a growing problem here in the United States. In 1991 14.7% of individuals 60 to 69 years of age were classified as obese. Fast-forward just nine years and that figures jumped up to 22.9%. That’s an 8.2% increase or roughly 1% per year.
While experts debate the root cause of this increase in weight gain in older individuals, many point to a cultural component. Americans in general consume more calories and burn fewer now than ever before. That can be attributed partially to technology simplifying our lives and the increased prevalence of (and some would say dependence on) processed foods. But one thing is clear, that excess weight is having a harmful effect on our health.
The Health Risks Associated with Obesity in Older Adults
Obesity in older adults can lead to a host of health problems which decrease an aging individual’s quality of life. Multiple studies have found that obese individuals 55 and older are at much higher risk of:
Complications from arthritis
High blood pressure
Added weight can even increase a person’s risk of serious medical complications associated with these conditions.
What You Can Do to Keep Your Loved One Healthier
Studies have shown that energy intake (the amount of calories we consume) doesn’t increase with age. It either flat lines or actually declines at around age 60. That means it’s the decrease in what doctors call Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) that leads to obesity in older adults. While changes in certain biological processes do affect TEE, one of the main components is physical exertion.
Therefore, the number one thing you can do to help any senior shake off (and keep off) that unhealthy weight is get them to exercise. There are a number of concerns when it comes to the elderly and exercise (such as mobility issues, frailty, and lack of muscle tone) but your health care professional can help you come up with an activity plan that takes into account the personal restrictions your loved one might be subject to. Even something as simple as taking a short walk every day can dramatically improve their health, mental agility, and their mood.
Second Family Home Care provides friendly non-medical in-home care throughout the Plano and Dallas, Tcxas areas. Our service providers are experienced, knowledgeable, and can deliver as much or as little help as you need to help your loved one live at home as comfortably as possible for as long as possible. Call us today at (972) 347-0700 to schedule a consultation.