Obesity in Older Adults: January is National Weight Loss Awareness Month

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:

  1. Complications from arthritis

  2. Heart disease

  3. Stroke

  4. Diabetes