Obesity is global problem particularly in developed nations and the middle class in developing countries. A sedentary lifestyle coupled with high-calorie high-fat fast foods are the main factors that contribute to weight gain from childhood till adulthood. Maintaining a healthy body weight is not only a concern for children and young adults. It is not just about being slim and the aesthetic factor but also the associated health risk with being overweight and obese. The elderly are just as much a risk, if not more so, of detrimental health effects of being overweight or obese. Therefore seniors have to be just as conscientious about their body weight and ensure they maintain it within a healthy range.
In the early years of life, being overweight and obese is more a concern in terms of the aesthetic factor. However, the health risks associated with excess body weight is applicable to all age groups although more so to people over the age of 40 years. Being overweight or obese means that a person is more likely to suffer with high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood cholesterol and diabetes mellitus – three of the most common chronic diseases mainly seen after the age of 40 years. This in turn increases the risk of heaving a heart attack or stroke – two of the most common life-threatening cardiovascular events seen later in life. There is also the link to cancer which is not always clearly understood.
However, the health dangers do not end there. There are many other detrimental effects that may not be a concern to seniors, such as fertility problems. An excess of body weight can also contribute to other common, although less dangerous, chronic conditions in seniors such as osteoarthritis and varicose veins. Being overweight or obese may not cause or be a risk factor for some chronic conditions seen in seniors but the excess body weight can definitely complicate the condition further. The bottom line is that being overweight or obese is harmful and the focus should be on restoring a normal body mass index (BMI).
Weight loss for overweight or obese seniors is just as important as it is for younger people. Before starting on any weight loss program, seniors should first consult with their family physician. Dieting and exercising can cause changes in hormone levels, blood glucose, electrolytes and complicate the use of certain medication. First the starting BMI (body mass index) needs to be established. This is a ratio of height to weight which can be adjusted for age to determine if a person is underweight, within a normal body weight range, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. Then the goal BMI needs to be established.
Realistic weight loss goals should be set and it is important for a senior to understand that their age-related lower metabolic rate, decreased muscle mass and less active lifestyle are hurdles in weight management. Nevertheless healthy weight loss is possible and should be undertaken with determination to reach the ideal body weight. Fad weight loss diets and strenuous exercise regimens should be avoided by seniors. A moderate change in diet and daily physical activity will ensure consistent, albeit small, weight loss steadily over weeks and months. Dieting pills and weight loss surgery is never advisable for seniors due to the host of drug interactions, side effects an complications that can arise.