Here’s a common question: “What’s your New Year’s resolution this year?”
And a common answer: “To lose some weight … same as last year and, come to think of it, the year before!”
It can be so hard to lose weight! If you’re facing this challenge, you’re not alone. More people in the U.S. are overweight these days. Some experts call it “the obesity epidemic,” and experts from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College even say this has lowered life expectancy in the U.S., from No. 3 in the world in 1960 to No. 10 today.
The older we get, the harder it can be to keep off the pounds. Even people who maintain a healthy weight in their earlier years often find themselves gradually getting heavier—and age-related metabolic changes mean more of that weight is fat, not muscle.
But it’s not inevitable that those extra pounds will settle in for the long haul. It’s never too late to begin a weight loss program. Seniors who are substantially overweight have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, depression and several types of cancer. If you still need convincing, here are eight more recent research findings to consider:
- Being overweight raises the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults with excess weight are more likely to contract COVID-19, to be hospitalized for serious complications, to experience long-term illness, and to die.
- Losing weight can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Many health conditions that are worsened by obesity raise the risk of dementia. Excess body fat also increases dangerous inflammation in the body, and is linked with shrinkage of certain parts of the brain.
- Losing weight means less wear and tear on our knees. Recent studies show losing weight can slow the degeneration of cartilage in the knee and delay the need for knee replacement surgery.
- Excess weight is expensive. Weight-related expenses cost our healthcare system almost $190 billion each year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. And overweight individuals stand to spend thousands more in extra healthcare costs during their lifetime.
- Obesity threatens independence. Older adults who are overweight are more likely to suffer mobility problems and have trouble with the activities of daily living, such as driving and cleaning the house. They may become isolated and less able to exercise or be active in the community.
- Overweight people are harder to care for. Adult children, spouses and other family members who help an obese senior get out of bed, go to the toilet, get in the car or get up from a chair are more likely to suffer back strain and other injuries—and their loved one also is at higher risk of injury. Even nurses, nursing assistants, in-home caregivers and other professionals may suffer an injury, despite their training to perform those care tasks as safely as possible.
- A person can be overweight but undernourished. A diet of refined carbohydrates, added sugar and unhealthy fats can keep us steadily gaining weight while still lacking in the nutrients that are important for healthy aging.
- Some vaccines aren’t as effective for obese adults. Fortunately, studies show the new vaccines for COVID-19 seem to be performing well, no matter a person’s weight. But University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found that obese people were twice as likely to get the flu, even if they’d had their annual seasonal influenza immunization. Other studies found similar results with vaccines for tetanus and hepatitis.
Armed with these extra reasons to shed some pounds, talk to your doctor about a weight loss plan that is individualized for you. The reasons people gain weight—and the best way for them to achieve a healthy weight—depends on many personal factors, and your doctor is the best source of advice for making 2022 the year you reach your goal.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, Copyright © 2021.