Obesity Slashes Years Off the Elderly

Obesity Slashes Years Off the Elderly

A higher than normal BMI can shorten your lifespan.

Published August 26, 2011

Make sure you show this article to your grandparents and parents.


A recent study found that elderly people with extra body fat might not live as long as those who maintain a normal weight. Researchers from School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California followed seniors for almost three decades and found a higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with a shorter life expectancy. What's even more interesting is that this study's findings are contradictory to past studies' findings on the same topic.


In a press release, the study's lead author, Pramil N. Singh, associate professor in the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University said, “We had a unique opportunity to do 29 years of follow-up with a cohort that was also followed for mortality outcomes. Across this long period of time, we had multiple measures of body weight, which provided a more accurate assessment.”


Health Day reported:


For the study, recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined 6,030 healthy adults who never smoked. They found that men older than 75 years with a BMI greater than 22.3 would live nearly four years less than those with a lower BMI.


Similarly, women older than 75 years with a BMI greater than 27.4 would live roughly two years less than other women their age who were of normal weight.


A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.


The study pointed out, however, that the negative effects of excess weight kick in for men and women at different BMIs. Men experienced a greater risk of dying beginning with a BMI of 22.3, while this risk did not appear for women until they had a BMI of 27.4.


The study authors suggested this difference may be because in postmenopausal women body fat is the main source of estrogen, which may help protect them from heart disease and hip fractures.


We all know that obesity is a serious problem in our community.


Most likely, folks who grow up obese, become obese seniors. It's a lifecycle for many of us, but that doesn't have to be our legacy. Staying fit when you are older isn't easy. Bodies change over time and can't do what they used to do back in the day. But no one expects a 70 year old to bench serious weight — all you have to do is be active and move.


Recently, the Huffington Post published a great article about low-impact exercises that seniors can do to stay in shape. Some tips include:


Walking: It can be done anywhere, it's great on the joints and you control the pace. 


Weight Training: The older you get, the more muscle mass you lose. Using light weights can build your muscles, burn fat and even help prevent bone fractures.


Water Exercises: The resistance from the water is great for shaping your body, and easy on the joints.


To learn more about senior health, go the National Institutes of Health's Senior Health page here.

(Photo: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/Landov)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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