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Watching your Weight in the New Year

Watching your Weight in the New Year

With another holiday season now in the books, many Americans are feeling a bit uncomfortable, particularly when buttons or zippers are involved. While most of us are greeting 2018 with some unwanted holiday heft, starting the new year at an unhealthy weight is especially serious for seniors.

The reason is this: According to the most recent data, the rate of obesity among Americans aged 65 and older has doubled in the past 30 years, and more than one-third of adults in this age category are currently obese. Couple that stat with the fact that as our age increases, so too does our risk of dying from weight-related conditions and diseases. Jan. 21 through Jan. 27 is Healthy Weight Week, and ATRIO Health Plans is using this occasion to increase awareness – particularly among older adults – about the dangers of being overweight or obese.

Seniors and Weight-Related Health Threats

Many illnesses, chronic conditions, and diseases develop as we age. Consequently, if you're overweight or obese in your senior years, serious health issues - such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, urinary incontinence, osteoporosis, and various types of cancers - are going to be exacerbated.

Other weight-related health threats facing seniors include:

  • Skin naturally loses some 20 percent of its thickness as we age, and this puts overweight/obese older adults at increased risk for pressure sores.
  • Respiratory problems often emerge in the senior years. The lungs of seniors who also are obese will decrease in size, which works to escalate respiratory issues.
  • Older adults who are overweight/obese have higher rates of depression compared to their peers who are healthy weights.
  • Overweight/obese seniors have a higher incidence of gallstones. Not surprisingly, as a result of the factors outlined above and others, overweight/obese senior adults are more likely to need nursing home care.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight is Key

Although genetics and other issues can make attaining and maintaining a healthy weight challenging, there are plenty of steps seniors can take to tip the scale in a positive direction, including:

  • Surround yourself with a support system of other seniors committed to maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Embrace the fact that physical activity is an important component of the healthy-weight equation. It's recommended that older adults trying to lose weight follow a regimen that incorporates stretching, aerobics, and strengthening exercises.
  • Don't feel you have to complete your exercises in a single session. It's equally effective to divide your workout into segments. For example, instead of exercising for 30 minutes, do three 10-minute exercise sessions.
  • Have a conversation with your doctor to determine if any of the medications you're taking can impede your ability to reach and maintain a healthy weight. If that's the case, explore solutions.
  • Make getting adequate sleep a priority. Insufficient sleep can result in hormonal changes that significantly increase your appetite and food consumption. Also, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to crave high-energy, high-calorie foods.
  • Seek the guidance of your doctor or a dietician before embarking on a weight-loss program. Diets that were effective when you were younger, could be detrimental to a senior.

There's no reason 2018 can't be your most fit year yet. You may even start looking forward to stepping on a scale!