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Obesity and Aging

As a geriatric care manager, I speak with my older clients who wrestle with weight gain as much as anyone younger.  No surprise, obesity has become a recognized, global epidemic in the developed world, and it shows little sign of slowing in its progression toward greater individual bulk and poorer health.  Yet, recently reported research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society summarized in an article in Medscape on Aging and Obesity suggests that overweight older adults may have very similar mortality to normal weight older adults.

In a study of about 9,000 Australian men and women aged 70 to 75 years old, researchers tracked the mortality of individuals categorized by their Body Mass Index (BMI).  BMI is a measure of the estimated body fat of an individual based on their height, weight and waistline.  What they found shows that overweight individuals who are older do not seem to have worse mortality than their normal BMI counterparts.  That said, being sedentary was associated with a greater risk of mortality.  Being sedentary doubles the mortality risk among women, but it only increases mortality in elderly men by about 28%.  Extreme obesity, however, was associated with significantly greater mortality.

While the researchers acknowledge that BMI is not a perfect indicator of body fat, per se, they did conclude that dieting among this age group does not offer any measureable mortality benefit.  Losing weight among older adults may even be harmful to their well-being.

Given the mortality risk associated with extreme obesity and the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, the researchers further suggested that very high BMIs may discourage the activity which is beneficial to older adults.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.,geriatric care manager Chicago, geriatric care Chicago

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