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Jul 31

Your obesity may be killing you – The Oakland Press – The Oakland Press

A recent study out of the Cleveland Clinic found that obesity robs us of more years of our lives than any other preventable health issue. That means that of all the top lifestyle-related killers that are in our power to modify or treat including smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol obesity shortens life the most.

That is bad news for the 13 million adults aged 65 and older who are obese, which is more than a third of that age group. While a few extra pounds on older adults are not a health issue and may even be beneficial, too much excess weight can contribute to a variety of health problems, including inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, joint problems and even cognitive impairment.

Additionally, obese older adults are admitted to the hospital and emergency room more than their non-obese counterparts.

The good news is that while obesity can lead to lost or unhealthy years, you have the power to get those years back. Even losing as little as 3 percent of your total body weight can make a difference if you maintain it.


Over the past 30 years, we have seen hundreds of people revive their life and their health through learning or recommitting to making good choices regarding their weight, says Patricia Jurek, manager of the Henry Ford Center for Weight Management at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital near Detroit.

Who is considered obese?

Usually, people who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more are considered obese and those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are overweight. Your BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on height and weight.

However, there are other factors to consider in addition to, or instead of, your BMI.

Defining obesity can be tricky for older adults. With age, older adults tend to lose muscle mass, which weighs more than fat. So, while your weight or BMI may not change, your body fat stores may increase as well as your risk for obesity-related diseases. On the other hand, older adults often lose inches in their height and may be classified as obese because their BMI has increased but their weight has stayed the same.

Patients at the Henry Ford Center for Health Management take the REEVUE breathing test. The test assesses your resting metabolic rate and creates a daily calorie goal to lose or maintain weight. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, the Henry Ford Womens Heart Center and the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine also offer Bod Pod analysis, which provides a medically accurate fat/muscle evaluation when you enter a small chamber for testing.

Why are many older adults obese?

Some adults have always had weight issues. Others find the number on the scale climbs as their metabolism and energy levels slow and their eating habits change or perhaps, unwisely, dont.

Lifestyle changes may be a factor as well. For example, if youre a widow or widower, you may not cook or visit the grocery store as frequently as in the past. Low energy levels and even a fear of falling may prevent some older adults from shopping regularly for fresh produce and healthy food.

Instead, they may stock up on unhealthy processed foods that have a longer shelf life or resort to fast-food options. Additionally, medications for other health issues, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, may cause weight gain.

Many people of all ages are getting away from cooking at home, which can lead to increased calorie intake, says Jurek. Create your own convenient meals and snacks. Keep a bowl of fruit out. Cook on the weekend and create freezer meals for the week. Look for ways to avoid processed or high-calorie, take-out food.

How to lose weight safely

Losing weight for older adults can be slightly more complicated that your basic eat less, exercise more formula. Seniors need to work with a doctor to determine a safe and effective weight loss plan. Additionally, a physician can review medications to see if any may cause weight gain. Some general guidelines to help older people lose weight effectively and safely include:

Cardiovascular exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. If you havent exercised before or in a while, its important to start slowly. Its not necessary to strap on running shoes or grab a tennis racquet; walking or even gardening can be beneficial.

The best way to increase your energy is to increase your movement, says Jurek. It doesnt have to be a 5k. Go for a 10-minute walk.

Strength training. Its important to make sure that any weight-loss program includes strength training (at least twice a week, recommends the CDC) to prevent muscle loss. Again, no need to bench press dozens of pounds. Simple exercise bands or even lifting household items such as soup cans will have an effect.

Protein. Its essential for preserving and building muscles, and some research suggests that older adults need more protein than their younger counterparts. Try eating a serving of protein at every meal, including yogurt, eggs, nuts or beans.

Whole Foods. People often mistakenly believe carbohydrates are the enemy to healthy diets. But carbohydrates eaten as whole foods are a necessary part of a healthy diet, says Jurek. People need to eat more whole foods in their natural state, whether its fresh, frozen or canned with lower sodium amounts, she advises. That provides food with higher water and fiber content and less calories per bite.

The issue with carbohydrates is processed carbohydrates; its the difference between having a potato and potato chips, or an apple or an apple muffin, says Jurek.

Hydration. Its important to stay hydrated for health reasons and also because thirst is sometimes confused with hunger. Drinking water all day long can help you feel fuller and prevent dehydration. You can jazz up your water by adding lemon, lime or another type of fruit for a boost of flavor.

Portion control. A simple way to remember how much of each type of food you need per meal, or what constitutes a portion, is to use the U.S Department of Agriculture My Plate visual. Fill half your lunch or dinner plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice and the other quarter with a lean protein. If you buy packaged goods, read the label so you understand the portion sizes.

Only 1 in 25 people eat enough vegetables to meet the daily recommended amount, and in the past 12 years, the obesity rate has increased 23.2 percent, says Jurek. When we really look at the impact, we need to look at our lifestyle, increase our activity and make healthy food choices.

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Debra Kaszubski, Vitality Special Writer, contributed to this report.

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Your obesity may be killing you - The Oakland Press - The Oakland Press

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