Healthy Weight After 60
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Healthy Weight After 60

Most of us have heard the word obesity before, but may not be familiar with the actual definition, or what it means for us to actually have it applied to us. How does the condition of obesity affect a person’s life, and what can an older adult do about it to manage their weight and promote healthy living?

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, defines obesity as when a person exhibits a “weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height”. The CDC groups weight into four categories: Underweight, Normal, Overweight and Obese. These categories are based off of your BMI, or Body Mass Index, which is the measure of your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. While the Overweight category is defined as a BMI between 25 and <30, Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. While BMI is used as a general diagnostic tool, it doesn’t take into account individual body composition or percentages of muscle mass to body fat. Overall health and lifestyle factors may be more important in determining the health risk of excess weight in older adults.

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States over the last few decades. In 2018, the age-adjusted rate of obesity in adults was 42.4%. This makes obesity the biggest cause of the nation’s chronic disease problem, with 47% of the total cost of chronic disease likely due to obesity and the conditions caused by it.

While the nation is more aware of obesity and the issues caused by it and surrounding it, due to diet culture and body image obsession, obesity is often viewed as a behavioral problem, or used as a negative marker to discriminate against or look down on those suffering from it. People carrying extra weight may be falsely and unfairly labeled as lazy, lacking self control, experience bias and discrimination in public and in the workplace, and be more likely to suffer from poor self image and mental health issues.

But the problems caused by obesity go much deeper than physical appearance. Carrying extra weight puts you at risk for a number of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, or certain types of cancer. There’s even a link between obesity and suffering a worse outcome from becoming infected with COVID-19.

The good news is that obesity is preventable and treatable, with a full range of options to explore for someone suffering from it.

  • Lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthfully and incorporating regular exercise into a weekly routine
  • Bariatric surgery, which involves reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold or absorb. Gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or the lap-band are all types of bariatric surgery.
  • Anti-obesity medications, which work with the hormones that control hunger.

There is no one size fits all method for controlling obesity in older adults. The best treatment option is discussing the methods with your healthcare provider to find one that works best for you.