Older Adults Not at Increased Risk for Death Due to Being Overweight
First, the good news. The link between body mass index and the risk of death among older people has been found to be weak. Body mass index, or BMI, is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height that is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. It is used to screen for weight categories that may be precursors to health problems.
Because it had been known that young and middle-aged people who were overweight ran a higher risk for death, it was assumed that the same was true for older people. This turned out to be erroneous. It has been discovered that the risk of dying is higher only for those older people who are severely obese.
So, congratulations to those older people who are overweight. Life will go on. But before you break out the party favors, you might want to know that although life will go on it may not go on in a business as usual way. It has also been pointed out that older people who are overweight have a markedly increased risk for problems with mobility and addressing the simple tasks of every day living. Although people are experiencing greater longevity, the benefits of those additional years are being impacted by a compromised quality of life.
Disability Among Older Adults Due to Obesity
When health data from 1988-1994 was compared to data from 1999-2004, it was discovered that functional impairment increased 43 percent among obese adults who were 60 years old or older. The functional impairment referred to effects the most basic of activities such as climbing ten steps or simply bending over.
In addition, obesity is related to medical conditions that are risk factors for disability such as osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints or diabetes.
People are growing obese at younger ages but improved medical care has increased longevity. Therefore, people are obese for longer periods of time and increase the potential for disability.
Obesity is a Global Problem
Obesity is a global phenomenon and, as such, the patterns first detected in the West are now cropping up in points beyond the borders of the United States. Elderly people in Latin America and the Caribbean are now becoming more likely to suffer from obesity-related disabilities.
A paper published by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston noted that data collected from six Latin American cities showed that obese seniors were now more likely to have significant problems with walking, bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting.
It is believed that the recent surge of obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean is due to people moving from rural to urban areas and changing their diets and other aspects of their lives to a more Western model. Should the trend continue, then the elderly in Latin American countries will begin to experience the chronic medical conditions associated with obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.