Obesity is a high-risk health issue in the United States and is associated with intensifying the impacts of chronic disease in old age. And, more than three in ten older adults are obese. Despite the unique implications of the obesity paradox, it’s important for older adults to actively manage their weight. Below are good practices to follow. The best strategy may be to start by talking to a health care practitioner.
Understand types of weight gain
- Obesity is excess accumulation of body fat, either just below the skin or around organs. Healthy eating habits and regular physical activity can limit the excess fat, but obesity is often rooted in more complicated, chronic conditions like diabetes or physical impairment.
- As adults retire from their jobs or become less mobile, they use their muscles less frequently, which leads to sarcopenic obesity. Sarcopenic obesity is common in older adults; muscle loss contributes to fat retention. Staying active, even minimally, can help mitigate this.
Assess your weight at home
- Calculate your body mass index: BMI is the most commonly known method of determining body composition. To calculate, divide your height by the square of your weight using this calculator from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It helps to screen for weight categories that indicate high-risk circumstances.
- Measure your waistline: This method may be more valuable than calculating BMI because it can yield a more accurate illustration of body composition. This is specific to older adults because the BMI often overestimates body fat as aging results in loss of height.
Talk to a doctor or healthcare provider
- Your primary care doctor may be able to help. And, if you’d like to lose weight, Medicare now covers weight-loss counseling. The Medicare obesity-counseling benefit includes a weekly session for the first month and a session every two weeks for the next five months.
Find yourself a health care buddy
- Managing health care practices of any kind is difficult to do alone. Find a friend or family member who will accompany you on a walk, to a gym class, or to the doctor to discuss other forms of weight management.
- If you know you’re at a healthy weight, or you’ve just lost a significant amount of weight, keep yourself and your health care buddy accountable with healthy lifestyle habits, like eating breakfast together every day and getting daily physical exercise, as the CDC recommends. (The CDC suggests 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week.)
Finally, ask a caregiver, family nurse practitioner or doctor if you suspect that you or a loved one needs help with addressing obesity risks. What works for one individual might not be right for another, so it’s important for adults to establish measures that enable best practices for their specific needs.
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