Senior adults deserve more than quick fixes or temporary solutions. At Structure House, seniors receive personalized guidance to promote long-term healing from obesity.
Learn about obesity in seniors
Defined as an unhealthy excess of body fat, obesity increases the risk of medical illnesses and premature death. Most physicians and other medical professionals use the body mass index (BMI) scale to determine obesity, with a BMI of 30 or above classifying an individual as being obese. Some BMI scales also have the classification of morbid obesity for those who have a BMI of 40 or above.
Obesity is a serious health problem that can cause multiple medical complications and impair an individual’s quality of life. In older adults, being obese can exacerbate age-related decline in physical function and lead to frailty. Furthermore, older adult who are overweight or obese have an increased risk for developing chronic diseases, joint pain and limited mobility, greatly impacting how they function on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are multiple options for addressing obesity, including residential weight loss programs, that can help older adults achieve and maintain a healthy weight. With proper nutrition and the implementation of regular physical activity, older adults can get their weight problems under control.
Statistics on geriatric obesity
In the past few years the number of older adults who are obese has doubled, with more than 15% of the older adult population now classified as obese. More specifically, it is estimated that the prevalence of obesity in adults ages 50 to 69 is 22.9%; for adults over age 70, the obesity rate is 15%.
The Connection With Obesity
Understand the connection between aging and weight issues
Generally speaking, obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than her or she burns. While we need food to provide us with sustenance to live and to provide us with the energy to remain active, when the balance between what we ingest and the amount of energy we expend is disrupted and we are taking in much more calories than we use, weight gain occurs. This can be especially difficult for older adults because they may not be able to get enough physical activity. Also, many adults age 65 and older experience hormonal changes, such as decreased growth hormone secretions and reduced responsiveness to thyroid hormone, which may cause the accumulation of fat. Other factors that may play a role in the development of obesity also include genetics, environmental influences, and other risk factors, which are listed below:
Genetic: It has been determined that obesity runs in families, meaning that those who have family members with weight issues are more likely to become overweight or obese themselves. Multiple research studies have shown a genetic link, specifically in the way in which a person’s body stores and processes fat.
Environmental: The world around us can have a significant impact on the development of obesity. What we eat, our level of physical activity, and our lifestyle choices are all influenced by our environment. Children who grew up in a household were parents did not eat healthy foods or chose to eat at fast food restaurants instead of preparing food at home may grow up to adopt these unhealthy eating habits. Additionally, there are some neighborhoods that do not have sidewalks or accessible recreation areas, making it more difficult for residents to engage in physical activity. It has also been suggested that those with lower education or who live in poverty are at an increased risk for becoming obese, which may due to the fact that high-calorie, processed food is less expensive and easier to make than healthier foods.
- The presence of medical conditions or illnesses
- Presence of mental health disorders such as depression
- Joint pain
- Decreased mobility
- Certain functional limitations
- Lack of sleep
- Certain medication
- Unhealthy diet
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1- 1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Effects of struggling with weight issues
There are a number of physical, psychological, and emotional issues that can arise as a result of obesity. In some instances the consequences of obesity can be life threatening, which is why excessive weight problems should be addressed as soon as possible. Some of the possible consequences of obesity include:
- Respiratory problems
- Sleep Apnea
- Joint pain
- Functional disability
- Increased stress
- Development of depression
- Decreased quality of life
- Development of skin conditions such as redness and rashes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain types of cancers
- Gallbladder disease
- Inability to walk
- Unable to participate in certain daily activities
- Social rejection
Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders
Senior obesity and co-occurring mental health disorders
There are a number of mental health concerns that can arise when an individual is struggling with weight concerns. While these mental health disorders are not directly caused by obesity, excessive weight can exacerbate the symptoms of these disorders. The following are some of the more common disorders that obese older adults may experience:
- Substance use disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Binge-eating disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
Types of Treatment
Types of obesity treatment offered at Structure House
The overall goal for older adults who are obese is to help them make permanent lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications, increased exercise, and implementation of community supports. However, the older adult population presents with unique challenges that may prevent them from being able participate in certain physical activities preventing them from being able to lose weight.
For older adults who are struggling with obesity, a weight loss program that minimizes muscle and bone loss and also takes into account functional impairments or metabolic complications is often the most beneficial way to get weight issues under control. These programs usually include nutritional counseling from a registered dietician or nutritionist, and can help ensure that older adults meet daily nutritional requirements while also moderately decreasing daily calorie intake for weight loss. Additionally, through the implementation of regular physical exercise older adults can improve physical functioning and better preserve muscle and bone mass. The best types of exercises recommend for the older adults include stretching, aerobics, and strengthen exercises as they help improve flexibility, endurance, and strength and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
These weight loss programs can help older adults who are obese facilitate safe dietary changes and safe increase in physical activities needed to not only lose weight, but keep it off.