Obesity in Senior Citizens
A blog written by Salil Mitra (Khyaal Content Community Member)
When a person's calorie intake exceeds the number of calories they burn, it leads to obesity. While the problem of obesity persists in people of all age groups, it's a major concern among elderly adults. Obesity leads to other diseases and makes it difficult for senior citizens to carry out their daily activities.
In this article, we are going to talk about the causes of obesity in elderly adults and some tips for obesity management.
Causes of obesity in elderly adults
Unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, pre-existing conditions, genetics, hormonal changes and ill-effects of medicines are some of the common reasons that cause obesity in senior citizens.
Unhealthy eating habits
One of the primary reasons behind obesity is unhealthy eating habits. When you're young, your metabolism works in your favour, and you can get away with eating junk now and then. But as your age increases, this gift of metabolism fades away, thus leading to weight gain. As an elderly, if you eat outside too often, have unhealthy and highly processed snacks in large quantities, and drink alcohol, obesity is inevitable.
For seniors, a sedentary lifestyle has become the leading cause of obesity. As we mentioned earlier, obesity happens when your daily calorie intake is much higher than the calorie burned. When you lead a sedentary lifestyle without any physical exertion or movements, you don't burn enough calories. As a result, you slowly move towards obesity.
But, it’s never too late to take action. With just a few simple exercises, it is possible to change your habits and switch to an active lifestyle. It’s a common misconception that you can’t start exercising later in life. The fact is, you can start exercising at any age. But if you're accustomed to the sedentary lifestyle, it will take some time to adapt to new changes. Start by incorporating 15 minutes of exercises into your routine, whether walking, running, jogging or anything else you prefer. And once you get the hang of it, slowly increase the time you devote to exercising.
People with certain health conditions are more likely to experience abnormal weight gain, leading to obese tendencies. Diseases like Cushing's syndrome, PCOS, hypothyroidism and insulin resistance often cause obesity in senior citizens.
Besides the reasons mentioned above, there are plenty of other elements that could cause obesity in seniors. It can be genetic, side effects of certain medicines, and another reason could be hormonal changes that occur in the body after you turn 65.
Health risks related to obesity and immoderate weight gain
Obesity in senior adults can lead to some serious diseases including Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, stroke and osteoarthritis, to mention a few.
Type 2 Diabetes
When blood glucose levels are higher than normal it's termed Type 2 Diabetes. The majority of people affected by this type of diabetes suffer from obesity. This disease gradually goes on to create other ailments in the body, such as kidney issues, nerve problems, heart diseases, and many more.
Obesity also causes different types of cardiovascular diseases, increasing the chances of a heart attack and cardiac death. With excessive weight gain, the body's blood flow, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are affected, and these changes harm the heart.
High blood pressure
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a condition in which the blood flows through the artery walls at an unusually high force. This, in turn, causes stress on the heart and can even potentially damage the arteries. Not only that, but high blood pressure can also be the root cause of other chronic diseases and even lead to a heart attack.
A common sleep disorder, sleep apnea is characterized by irregular breathing during sleep. When someone is suffering from sleep apnea, they stop breathing for short intervals during their sleep, which causes them to snore.
When there is an interruption in blood supply to the brain, it causes a stroke. This interruption is usually caused by a blocked blood vessel. Since the brain is involved here, strokes can cause severe damage to parts of the brain.
In Osteoarthritis, the cartilage that protects bones wears out slowly, leading to excessive pain in the joints. This disease can completely take away a person's movement abilities. Obese people have higher chances of developing Osteoarthritis, as the excessive weight creates extra pressure on the weakened joints, leading to even more pain.
How to manage obesity in seniors: Tips for obesity management
Obesity in the elderly doesn’t have to be a life sentence. With proper weight-loss strategies along with support from loved ones, older adults can lose weight and improve their health. Some ways to manage obesity in senior adults include:
Increasing your physical activity
If you're retired and you don't have much work to do during the day, start by incorporating physical exercises into your everyday routine. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to prevent obesity in elderly adults. You must exercise regularly to maintain your strength and muscle tone. You should also consider joining a group exercise class. These classes are great for keeping you motivated and getting you moving, even if you don’t have a lot of energy or stamina.
Following are a few simple tips to help you get started:
1. Walk for 15 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter how far or short your walk is. Just do it! You’ll start seeing results within a few days.
2. Warm-up before exercising by doing some light stretching exercises.
3. Find a partner to exercise. Having someone to work out with makes the exercise more fun and increases the likelihood of you sticking with it.
4. You can also try yoga. Practising yoga regularly not only takes care of your health and maintains body weight, but it also keeps your mind calm and stress-free.
5. Try joining a gym or a group class. If you don't feel you can manage the exercises alone, take help from the gym trainer and gradually get into the habit of moving your body every day.
Losing weight gradually
Rapid weight loss should never be your goal. If you lose weight all of a sudden, it will have a negative impact on your health. You should aim for gradual weight loss by making required lifestyle changes like shifting to a healthier and more active way of life.
Consult a professional
If your weight is causing trouble in carrying out your daily activities or you're experiencing any physical disturbance because of obesity, it's always a good idea to consult a physician. You could also talk to a dietitian, who can create a diet chart for you. Rather than relying on word of mouth, it's better to seek professional advice when it comes to your health and wellbeing.
Your diet can make a big difference in your health as well as your ability to manage your weight. If you eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, you will be less likely to gain weight. You should also eat lean meats, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Cut down on sugar and high fats as much as you can. Always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise program.
Reducing portions of food
Portion control is a significant part of managing weight for elderly adults. Every time you're having a meal, try to have smaller portions. You can switch your regular-sized plates for smaller ones. This will trick your brain into thinking that you're having the same portion of food that you usually do, but in reality, you're using a smaller-sized plate.
Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day
Instead of having three heavy meals during breakfast, lunch and dinner, try to have smaller meals more often throughout the day. You can have as many as six small meals at short intervals. This will keep your hunger pangs at bay and at the same time, contribute towards managing weight.
Drinking plenty of water can help you reduce hunger, improve digestion and keep you from having those afternoon naps. Most people drink less than the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses a day, which equals about 2 litres or half a gallon. By drinking water throughout the day, you will not feel hungry at lunchtime and snack time. You’ll also stay hydrated, which will help you to keep your metabolism high.
Don't skip meals
People who skip breakfast tend to consume more calories throughout the day than people who eat breakfast. Skipping a morning meal may increase caloric intake later in the day. Eating a healthy breakfast every day keeps your metabolism humming and prevents overeating throughout the day.
Don’t fall into the trap of only eating the same foods every day. Variety helps prevent boredom and overeating. You’ll also be more likely to make healthier choices. Try including new foods in your diet by mixing them up with different vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Make Healthy Choices
If you are hungry, don’t reach for that bag of chips. Instead, opt for apple or carrot sticks. Try having a serving of fruits or veggies instead of packaged or processed snacks. Or take the stairs when possible, instead of the elevator.
Obesity is a common concern among many elderly adults, but very few do anything about this condition. As you can understand from this article, excessive weight gain can lead to dire consequences in the form of chronic diseases. So the earlier you take action, the better it is for your overall health.
Unless you are restricted by physical conditions, switching to an active lifestyle shouldn't be an issue for you. All you need is a little willpower and you're already on your way to shed those extra kilos, welcoming a healthier version of yourself.