National Obesity Awareness Week, takes place in January and we thought that we would share a blog post about the dangers of obesity in seniors, as well as some tips and advice for ways in which you can help an overweight or obese senior to lose weight and improve their health.
Did you know that worldwide, nearly 70% of all seniors (people over the age of 65-years-old) are overweight or obese? Being overweight or obese puts anyone of any age at higher risk of a range of health complications, but particularly older adults, as older adults already have an increased risk of a range of health problems.
As we age, our metabolisms change, which means that we require less calories to stay healthy. Not only do older adults require less calories, but their bodies also burn calories and fat less efficiently, which means that unless calories intake is adjusted and lowered, the weight can quickly creep on.
When it comes to being obese in old age, it is important to realise that both the characteristics of obesity and the way that it can affect seniors are different to how being obese affects younger adults.
What risks does obesity pose to seniors?
It has been scientifically proven that being overweight or obese can contribute to development of various diseases, particularly in older adults. This is because the majority of the body’s organs, systems and cells are negatively impacted by carrying around excess weight.
The most common health conditions associated with obesity include high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and then there is the fact that people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing kidney disease, having a stroke, or having other serious medical conditions. Being overweight or obese can also have an impact on mobility, as carry excess weight around can put additional and unnecessary strain on the joints, making mobility problems more likely.
Of course, in addition to the physical impact that obesity can have, there are also the mental complications to consider as well. Did you know that obesity can have an impact on cognition, including how the mind process information, problem solving, memory, and decisions. While these functions tend to naturally deteriorate with age, studies have shown that they tend to deteriorate more quickly in people who are overweight or obese. Since cognition is what helps seniors to live happy and more independent lives, this effect of being obese is more important than ever, particularly for seniors.
Medications are one cause of weight gain in seniors…
A lot of people don’t realise that there are certain medications that contribute to weight gain and make gaining weight twice as likely. That’s why it is so important that seniors and their carers take the time to discuss all medications with their doctor, to properly understand the potential side effects that come with them.
The medical drugs known to cause weight gain include: antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihyperglycemic drugs, steroids, and beta-blockers. In some instances, when classed as being medically appropriate, doctors are sometimes willing to swap a drug that causes weight gain for one that should not do so. This is something that should be discussed as part of any senior’s medical care plan when new medication is being introduced.
How can weight loss in seniors be achieved?
Studies have suggested that even a small weight loss of just three percent may help older adults to reduce their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, making any attempts at weight loss worthwhile. Of course, when it comes to weight loss in seniors, the approach taken needs to be slightly different to the approach taken by younger adults. Below are some ideas for planned weight loss in seniors:
Exercise and strength training can help to increase muscle strength and shift excess weight. Using low impact activities, such as swimming and walking are the best option for older adults, as these tend to be safest, even for people with chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure. The most important thing is to take it slowly, making sure not to over do it.
Eating well can help to reduce weight and prevent further weight gain. A healthy diet that is rich in vitamins and nutrients is crucial, including five pieces of fruit or vegetables per day. The best way to determine a safe eating plan for an obese senior is to speak to their doctor for advice or seek the help of a dietician.
Bariatric surgery or drug therapy can also be considered. For older people who are obese or overweight, bariatric surgery or drug therapy can prove successful. However, it is crucial to ensure that both the benefits and risks are weighed up beforehand and carefully considered.
Make life comfortable
For seniors who are overweight or obese, life can be a little uncomfortable, particularly when their size is not taken into account when selecting furniture for them. So when it comes to providing a senior who is obese with everything that they need to lead a safe and comfortable life, either at home or in a care facility, it is important to invest in adequate bariatric products.
Being overweight or obsese can be highly detrimental to your health, which is why it is so important to ensure that wherever possible, obese seniors are helped to lose weight and improve their health.