Weight Management Plays a Key Role in Senior Health

Weight Management Plays a Key Role in Senior Health

By Shanna Lee, R.N.

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The epidemic of obesity in the U.S. has also had an impact on older Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 40 percent of women over age 65 are considered not just overweight—but obese—and 36 percent of men are obese.

The chronic disease of obesity carries its own health risks, adding to the health challenges seniors already face later in life. From heart disease to type 2 diabetes, stroke and even cancer, carrying too much weight can exacerbate chronic medical problems.

During regular doctor visits, seniors should include a weight management discussion to ensure they are on track, or devise a personalized plan to get there.

Just because you are over a certain age doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight.

You can lose weight later in life

Years ago, it was assumed that older people would not respond to treatment for obesity as successfully as younger patients. But scientists and obesity medicine researchers have disproven this premise time and again through clinical studies involving thousands of seniors.

Weight loss boils down to calories in versus calories out. Regular exercise can boost your energy output to increase weight loss,” says Daniel Piereth, fitness and wellness coordinator at Applewood, a continuing care retirement community in Freehold. “But make no mistake–even as an exercise professional–I can admit that the majority of weight loss is achieved at meal time, first and foremost.”

Boost metabolism regardless of your age

Just like younger people, seniors can increase their fat and calorie-burning potential by turning up the fire on their metabolism. While it does slow down as the decades pass, metabolism can still be turned-up using the following tools:

  • Sleep seven or eight hours a night

Too little shut-eye can inhibit your body’s processes enough to offset weight loss.

  • Stay hydrated

Dehydration puts your body into ‘crisis mode’ and slows down organ function.

  • Keep calm

When you’re uptight, your body releases cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal system linked to weight gain.

  • Eat metabolism-boosting foods

Fuel up on protein rich eggs, lean meats, whole grains and lentils.

  • Keep on moving

Exercise helps body and mind and may offset disease onset.

The CDC recommends people 65+ get 2.5 hours/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and perform weight-bearing exercise on all the body’s major muscle groups at least twice a week. Intersperse your favorite work-out (often walking) with different activities such as swimming, croquet, shuffleboard or golf.

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Keep an eye out for unexplained weight loss

While many of us long for this condition, when you are a senior, it could be a sign of a potential health issue. If you are losing weight because you’re exercising more or eating less, it is considered normal weight loss.

But losing weight unintentionally could suggest an underlying health issue such as overactive thyroid, infection, mouth or throat issues, GI (digestive) problems, depression, diabetes, cancer, or neurological problems.

Toni Vono, RN, health and wellness coordinator at Applewood, says unplanned weight loss is a surprisingly common issue for some older people. She says a loss of appetite may also be attributed to side effects from over-the-counter or prescription medications, substance abuse, anxiety or stress.

“As a general guideline, if you lose more than 10 pounds, or five percent of your weight, see your doctor to rule out any medical issues,” Vono advises. “Some seniors also choose to reach out to a registered dietitian to add nutritionally-rich, higher calorie foods and nutritional supplementation to their diets.”

Do you know your daily calorie target?

Seniors should know about how many calories they need to eat every day. If not, get these guidelines from your healthcare provider. Consuming the right number of calories each day will help you look and feel better, while giving you markedly more energy and stamina to enjoy your day, from morning until night.

Shanna Lee, R.N., is the director of nursing at Applewood, a non-profit, continuing care retirement community (CCRC) located in Freehold. She has 17 years of experience overseeing senior healthcare services in a senior residential environment. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Adult Fitness and Physical Education. To learn more about retirement community living, visit Applewood.com or call (732) 303-7416.