Our body undergoes many changes with age. A less active lifestyle can cause obesity in older adults. The impact of rising obesity on seniors and caregivers can be quite devastating. Let’s study this aspect in the article below
Around 30% of the older adults in America are obese. This is primarily due to the less active lifestyle or mobility issues. It is decreasing the quality of life of older adults. At the same time, obesity is not a life-threatening health condition on its own but is one of the factors for many health-related issues.
Seniors who are obese have a much higher risk of suffering from health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases. Obesity affects the health of older people and makes it difficult to do their daily work. It is essential to understand how the change in weight affects overall health and maintain it.
In this article, let’s look at the impact of rising obesity in seniors and caregivers and how we can overcome it, wherein we will cover:
- Obesity and its causes in seniors.
- Is the waist-to-height ratio better than BMI to measure obesity?
- How rising obesity burdens caregiver systems
- How should seniors maintain their weight?
Obesity In Seniors
As people grow old, there is an increase in their fat mass. Usually, the body cannot burn as many calories as it did earlier. It may not function as it used to before. When the body’s BMI is more than 30, it means the person is obese.
Obesity is one of the causes that leads to many health diseases. There is an increase in the rise of obesity in seniors in the US. Obesity affects many parts and organs of the body, leading to heart diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
People who have type-2 diabetes are of particular concern. Obesity affects the heart, kidneys, and other health conditions over time. Certain mobility issues and physical disabilities are also caused due to weight gain in seniors.
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Is The Waist-to-Height Ratio Better Than BMI To Measure Obesity?
BMI has for long been considered the benchmark or standard for measuring obesity. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.
However, BMI has its critics because many people believe that it classifies far too many people as obese even though their visceral fat levels are not that high, and vice versa.
Recent research indicates that Waist-to-Height might be a better indicator of obesity among various markers. In this measure, you have to calculate the circumference of your waist (if you take a measuring tape and run it around your waist, how many inches does it come to), divided by the person’s height (again in inches). For men, the cutoff for obesity is 0.53, and for women, the cutoff is 0.54.
Other indicators that are used to measure obesity include waist to hip ratio and waist circumference. However, the correlation with weight-to-height seems to be the strongest.
Causes Of Weight Gain In Older Adults
One of the main factors determining obesity in seniors is calorie intake and energy expenditure. When a person has more calories intake than they burn, it leads to obesity.
There is a decrease in energy among people between 50 to 65, thus leading to a rise in body fat. Older people may even have hormonal changes that cause more body fat. Let us look at the causes that lead to weight gain.
People may become obese at any age. But older people have a high chance of becoming obese. This is because there are a lot of changes in the age as they grow old. Their muscles become weak, making it difficult to do their day-to-day tasks.
A lower muscle mass also decreases the metabolism of a person. Older people have a less active lifestyle, making it challenging to maintain a healthy weight. It is necessary to have a healthy diet pattern and have a more active lifestyle to stay fit and healthy.
Decrease In Physical Activity
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A person will develop obesity if their mother or father is obese. Many people feel that obesity runs in families and is related to genetic factors. As per some studies, around 40% to 70% of people are obese due to genetics.
People who are obese may have multiple genes that lead to weight gain. The fat mass and obesity-related genes are found in 43% of the total population.
The presence of such genes that leads to obesity can cause an increase in hunger level, overeating, and increase in calorie intake. Genes that lead to obesity can be caused due to Leptin deficiency, POMC deficiency, and MC4R deficiency.
Overeating is one of the significant factors that lead to obesity. People will gain more weight if they have a diet rich in fats. This includes fast foods, fried and sugary products, and these foods are high in fat and have more calories, thus leading to obesity.
Like genetic factors, certain environmental factors lead to obesity. With the changes in the environment and lifestyle, more and more people eat outside rich in calories and fats.
This prevents people from eating healthy and staying active. Even in workplaces nowadays, vending machines contain high-calorie food products.
Uninhibited alcohol intake and smoking in older age (due to various reasons) is another risk factor linked to obesity.
Many neighborhood places do not have sidewalks, and there are recreational areas. This makes people inactive, which results in obesity.
Certain psychological factors like anxiety, depression, and poor emotional management can lead to bad eating habits. This results in weight gain and obesity. People often overeat due to anxiety, stress, depression, and sadness.
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A person’s lifestyle, especially for seniors, affects the quality of life. Following an unhealthy diet, consuming alcohol, and being less active make a person obese.
People who follow a high-calorie diet and have less intake of fruits and vegetables have a very unhealthy diet. Having a large portion of these foods results in a lot of weight gain.
Alcohol And Other Beverages.
People may have a lot of calorie intake through liquid drinks and not know the calorie content it contains. People who consume alcohol and have high-calorie drinks contribute to a lot of weight gain.
Being Less Active.
People who have a very inactive lifestyle, have a lot of calorie intake in a day, and do not exercise regularly will gain weight. It will lead to obesity. People who look at the computer or phone screen for a long time and have a sedentary lifestyle have high chances of gaining weight. Lack of sleep is also one of the causes of obesity. You can use these Mattress for Overweight Elderly.
Older people take a lot of medicines due to some of the other health conditions. Sometimes these medications result in weight gain. Certain antidepressants that help treat depression, anticonvulsants that help control seizures, and other such medications are associated with weight gain.
Around 25% of people who are under antidepressant medicines gain weight. It is advisable to consult your doctor if you find an increase in weight rather than discontinuing medication yourself.
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Consequences Of Weight Gain In Older Adults
People who are obese have a higher chance of developing severe health conditions. These health conditions include:
Type 2 Diabetes.
People who suffer from diabetes take certain medications and use insulin to control blood sugar levels in the body. This sometimes causes weight gain and obesity.
Cancers. People who are obese are at a high risk of cancer of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, and other such types of cancers.
Seniors who are obese are at a higher risk of having high cholesterol and blood pressure. These are the significant risk factors for any heart disease and stroke.
People who are obese need to put a lot of stress on their joints to move. They may develop inflammation and swelling in the body, which is one of the causes leading to osteoarthritis. People whose BMI is higher have a chance of developing osteoarthritis in their knees.
Rising Obesity Burdens Caregiver System
There is a rise in obesity among older adults in the US. Caregivers find it challenging to take care of their family members who are obese and have mobility issues. There have been a lot of medical and societal implications among older adults with obesity.
Caregivers find it challenging to help seniors who are obese with their day-to-day activities, mobility, and skincare. There are huge costs involved in health care and caregiving for older adults with obesity and other health conditions.
As the number of people with obesity in the US is increasing, so are the challenges for caregivers. Let us look at some of the challenges caregivers face.
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Older adults who are obese often need help in movement that includes making them sit, stand and move around. They may not want to become a burden on their family members and maybe hard on them.
However, as a person ages, there is a decrease in their muscle mass, making them sedentary. Caregivers find it challenging to make the older person with obesity move around and encourage them to move by themselves.
Seniors feel guilty of putting a burden on caregivers as they are not physically fit to move around on their own. This affects the mental health of both seniors and caregivers who provide support.
People who find it challenging to move will lead to other health problems like pneumonia, respiratory and circulatory problems, gastrointestinal issues, and other such issues. Thus, older people need to be physically fit and active.
Many times, mobility issues result in falls. It is essential to prevent falls at home and look at the safety of your loved ones first. People who are obese have a greater risk of falls. This often leads to severe injuries such as hip fractures, lacerations, and trauma.
By regularly visiting their physician will help prevent falls and determine the risk of their loved ones.
Prevention of falls also depends on the person’s age, risk factors, and level of obesity. Let us look at some tips on preventing falls in the elderly.
- Regular Exercise. Specific exercises that help improve posture and balance will help a person from falls. Being physically active and working is one of the best ways to prevent falls.
- Review All the Medications. It is advisable to review all the medications your loved ones may have with your doctor, including all the over-the-counter medicines.
- Get Their Vision Checked. Seniors should regularly go for their eye checkups. Older people may fall due to poor vision or wearing old glasses. So it is advisable to have their visions checked.
- Safe Environment. It is essential to create a safe environment for loved ones at home to help prevent falls. You can reduce the risk of falls by looking at ways to reduce such hazards. This may include uneven stairs, poor lighting, and lack of railing.
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Older adults who are obese may have a lot of changes in the skin and problems relating to that, and it may not be similar to a person who is healthy and fit. Skin-related problems for obese people include skin rash, formation of bacteria, and others.
Sometimes the body fats cause ulcers and skin tears, and it is essential to prevent such skin problems and avoid the risk of infections. This will also lead to healthcare costs and affects the quality of life of loved ones.
It is necessary to maintain good hygiene and prevent skin complications in older adults with obesity.
Sometimes when caring for seniors with obesity, the caregiver can get hurt. Obese people need assistance in their daily activities, including sitting, standing, bathing, dressing, walking, and skincare needs. They may even require help in preparing meals. While helping and supporting older adults, there is a risk of injury to caregivers.
Caregivers may not be able to lift and move older adults properly. This results in back or neck injury. Over a period of time, it may lead to bone and muscle injury as well. It is advisable to consult your doctor to assist your loved ones and prevent such injuries. You will not be able to help your loved ones if you get hurt.
How To Help Older People With Obesity
Obesity is a serious concern for older people. As they grow old, they have other health-related problems, and obesity will create more risks. Your loved ones will need help and may not be able to say it.
As a caregiver, you will want to help your loved ones to stay healthy and active. Let us look at how you can help and assist your loved ones who are obese and create a mobility-friendly atmosphere.
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Focus On Your Loved Ones Health First
Rather than looking at a person’s weight, it is essential to look at the health of your loved ones first. Please don’t negatively impact them and encourage them to eat unhealthy food. However, it is essential for your loved ones who are obese to lose weight. But it is more important to be healthy and improve their well-being.
Tell your loved ones how obesity will lead to many health conditions and tell them how concerned you are for them. Ensure them that you are there to support them.
Develop A Daily Routine
You can set a daily routine for your loved ones that include socializing, moving around, and doing some physical activity. They can visit their loved ones or relatives, have a walk around the park or even have a good read. Any kind of movement and exercise will help make them flexible and physically active.
Help With Medications
It is essential to look at your loved ones’ medications. As a caregiver, you need to ensure that your loved ones take correct medications and on time. Look for any side effects, symptoms of drug interactions they may be having and consult your doctor.
Consult A Counselor Or Physician
If your loved ones do not have any physical, you need to hire one and have regular checkups. A physician will tell you about any health risks they may be prone to. Sometimes older adults may feel perfectly fine but maybe at a greater risk of any health conditions.
If your loved ones are obese, they may have a habit of eating unhealthy food a lot. Sometimes they have unhealthy diets due to their inability to cook and eat healthily.
Some people often consume a lot of alcohol or overeat due to stress and anxiety. So it is advisable to consult a counselor and figure out its cause. A counselor will be able to help come out from any stress or anxiety-related issue, thus preventing obesity.
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Try To Be A Good Example
Suppose you have a habit of eating unhealthy food. In that case, your loved ones with obesity will also have a habit of eating unhealthily. Try having more fruits and vegetables in front of your loved ones and set a good example in front of them. Looking at you, they will also start following a healthy diet. Avoid eating processed and sugary foods.
Encourage Seniors To Be Physically Active
Along with eating healthily, you can encourage your loved ones to be physically active. You can do some exercise or some form of activity and motivate older adults to follow you. Don’t engage them in hardcore activities. A simple walk around the street or park will set a good example.
Home Care Facilities
Sometimes due to poor health and food habits, older people find it challenging to take care of themselves. They may find it challenging to cook or do any domestic chores themselves. They may even find it difficult to move out to buy any grocery items, making them eat unhealthy or processed food. As a caregiver, you may sometimes find it challenging to be there for your loved ones all the time.
Getting a homecare service will help them in various aspects. A home care provider will assist them in grooming and even accompany them for walks around the parks. A professional health care provider can also examine seniors with their health conditions and assess them in:
- Treating health issues.
- Skin conditions.
- Improving their movement and mobility.
- Prevent falls.
- New health conditions
Caregivers may find it difficult to care for their obese loved ones. But there are many ways you can help them manage their medical and personal needs and support them in every other way. Thus with the help of home care services, caregivers can support their loved ones with maintaining a healthy routine and preventing any severe health conditions.
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How Should Seniors Maintain Their Weight?
It is essential for older adults to maintain a healthy weight. It helps improve their blood pressure, cholesterol and improve inflammation. Though, it is advisable for seniors to consult a doctor before attending any weight loss programs. Let us look at some ways to lose weight.
Being physically active and doing some exercise helps maintain the overall weight, and it further improves the quality of life. Doing some simple activities like swimming, cycling or just walking will help. These simple exercises are safe for older adults with any other health conditions as well.
Although it is important to start gradually, doing some warm-up exercises before and after each session will help and minimize any soreness or injury.
Following a healthy diet pattern will help avoid weight gain in the elderly. Many times, older adults may find difficulty chewing food or may have a loss of taste. This will make them following a specific diet pattern complicated.
Sometimes doctors suggest drug therapy or bariatric surgery for older adults with obesity. It is essential to look at all the risk factors and side effects before going for any such surgeries.
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Obesity In Older Adults Impacts The Overall Quality Of Life!!
Obesity in seniors reduces the overall quality of life. They may find it challenging to be physically active and do things they used to enjoy. Their organs do not function properly and make them lead a sedentary life. Thus, obesity is associated with other health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, and heart diseases.
As a caregiver, it is essential to encourage their loved ones with obesity, lead a healthy lifestyle and stay physically active. Doing some daily exercise will help burn many calories and prevent other severe health conditions.
We hope this article has been able to give you all the information you need to fight the scourge of obesity in your older age. If you have more queries and questions that you would like to ask us, please drop us a word in the comments section, and we will get back to you quickly.
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