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Weight problems later in life

Part 2 of 2

Created date

October 22nd, 2018
Dr. Narrett leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities

Dr. Narrett leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he has been providing care for seniors for over three decades.

Dr. Narrett leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he has been providing care for seniors for over three decades.

It’s no surprise that the weight-loss industry has been quite successful. The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the overall prevalence of obesity among seniors in this country is about 40%. This raises concern as we know that being at a healthy weight and having good nutritional status is very positive for mind and body. We also know that being overweight is associated with a number of medical conditions, including heart disease; diabetes; arthritis; and colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer. Because of this, it makes good sense to manage your weight as you would any aspect of your health and well-being.

Weight gain is common as we age and can occur for a number of reasons as our bodies tend to lose muscle mass and store fat. You may not necessarily be eating more, but many people become less active over time, so while your daily calories matched your energy needs as a younger adult, your food intake now may be more than you need.

Another factor that affects weight in later life is fluid buildup. This may be noticeable in your legs, feet, and ankles, and sometimes your abdomen. A common reason is congestive heart failure. Other problems leading to fluid accumulation include diseases of the liver, kidneys, vascular system, or lymphatic system. Medications can cause fluid retention, including some blood pressure and heart medications along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If you’re gaining weight, please ask your physician if it might be medication related.

Minimal impact?

With all the different diseases associated with obesity, you would think this condition would be associated with decreased life expectancy. In fact, remarkably enough, many studies suggest that being overweight has minimal impact on life expectancy over the age of 70. While not every study confirms this finding, it does speak to the fact that, once again, it’s fundamentally important to look at your individual situation and have a conversation with your physician. If you are otherwise healthy; feeling well; and leading an active, engaged lifestyle, you may decide with your doctor that weight loss is not necessary.

On the other hand, if you have knee arthritis with pain and disability along with diabetes and heart disease, weight loss could dramatically improve your quality of life and potentially your life expectancy. Studies show that every pound you lose removes four pounds of pressure from your knees and can thus improve mobility.

If your doctor determines that it’s in your best interest to take off some pounds, a plan that fits your lifestyle should be put into place. There are two main principles that everyone should follow to lose weight: exercise more and choose nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meat, and dairy.

When approaching weight management, always consider the weight you feel at your best in the context of your individual health conditions. This will help you design a plan to achieve a better quality of life and well-being.

In good health,

Dr. Narrett

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