The Health Risks of Obesity in Seniors
America is suffering an obesity epidemic that continues to worsen each year. We often hear about the growing problem among adults and even children, but what about obesity in the senior population?
In the past, seniors were at risk of being underweight, however this has changed as the number of overweight seniors grows. According to Congressional Research Service estimates, if the current pattern is continued, nearly half of the elderly population will be obese by 2030.
There are many reasons older adults gain excess weight. As we age, our metabolism slows and mobility often declines leading to a less active lifestyle. Additionally, as we grow older, we tend to lose muscle mass, which gets replaced with fat. Older adults may also experience a natural loss of taste buds causing them to consume more sodium, sugar and high caloric foods that lead to weight gain.
Health conditions associated with obesity
While being overweight has health consequences at any age, older adults may suffer more severe complications overall. As we age, our organs don’t function as efficiently. Seniors who are obese have an even greater strain on their organs to operate properly. An overweight senior’s heart has to work much harder to pump blood throughout the body causing the heart muscle to enlarge. This can lead to serious heart disease, a number one killer among older adults.
Obese seniors are also at risk for developing:
- High cholesterol
- Certain cancers
- Breathing problems
Being overweight can cause mental health complications as well. Most seniors experience some level of cognitive decline as they grow older. However, studies show that cognition, which includes memory recall, information processing, and decision making, deteriorates more rapidly in those who are affected by obesity.
Obesity has also been linked to depression and a decreased overall quality of life, which can be especially concerning for seniors. Seniors suffering from depression are twice as likely to develop heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, and have the highest incidence of suicide among any age group.
How to fight obesity
It’s never to late lose weight and improve your health. Some studies show that a weight loss as little as 3 percent in older adults may significantly improve conditions such as inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Here are some common ways to help manage weight:
- Exercise. Physical activity is an important part of losing weight and improving overall health. Try low impact activities such as walking, swimming, and bicycling. These activities are generally considered safe for seniors, even those who suffer from conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
- Eat healthy. Proper nutrition is important at any age. Eating a sensible diet of whole grains, fresh produce, and lean protein can help seniors stay healthy avoid excess weight gain. Seniors who have difficulty chewing or special dietary restrictions may benefit from consulting with a nutritionist or dietician for diet recommendations and guidance.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.