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Healthy Weight Week Set for Jan. 24-30

December 28, 2020

Seniors Should Assess Weight Risks & Plan Changes for Year Ahead

While across the U.S. millions of young Americans will begin diet and exercise programs as the New Year rolls in, assessing weight risk in seniors is just as important. By meeting with your physician, older adults can chart a course for a healthier lifestyle which may include plans for weight loss, revised dietary plans or even a weight gaining program for those seniors whose BMI has dipped too low.

While we rarely think of gaining weight as being a factor in a healthy lifestyle, there’s growing evidence that a healthy body mass index, or BMI, for older adults is higher than that of the general population.  In other words, a little extra weight might actually be healthier for seniors than being too thin.

BMI is a tool commonly used to assess body fat levels. Both height and weight are used to calculate BMI. The resulting number is then classified as “underweight”, “normal”, “overweight”, or “obese”. Once you have this number, you can check the standardized chart to see where you fall and if changes or modifications need to be made.

BMI Range:Classification:
Less than 18.5Underweight
30 or MoreObese

For most adults, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal. With higher BMIs, the risk increases for certain diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallstones, breathing problems, and some cancers.

BMI is only one indicator of health.  BMI assesses for weight and height, but it does not account for body composition.  For example, a muscular body builder may have a high BMI, but certainly wouldn’t be considered obese. BMI also does not account for lifestyle factors like diet quality, physical activity, and overall health. 

Although BMI is a relatively simple way to evaluate a person’s weight-related health risks, assessing BMI in seniors isn’t as straightforward.

A 2014 analysis looked at BMI and the risk of death in adults over age 65. Researchers reviewed 32 different studies that evaluated 197,940 older adults (ages 65+) with an average follow-up of 12 years. Remarkably, the older adults with an “overweight” BMI between 27-27.9 had the lowest rates of mortality of all the seniors reviewed.  Statistically significant increases in mortality weren’t seen until BMIs raised above 33.

And even more interesting, on the flip side, rate of mortality increased much more quickly with lower BMIs. Seniors with a BMI of 24—on the high end of the “normal” range—were found to have average mortality rates, but when BMI reached 20 or below (still in the “normal” range), rates of mortality increased by a shocking 28%. 

The study only looked at mortality rates, and not quality of life or presence of chronic conditions, which are still more common in those who are overweight or obese.  Weight monitoring is vitally important, and any modifiable causes of weight gain or weight loss should be addressed promptly, as it could place elders in danger.

Physicians, nutritionists, and physical therapists can help with developing plans for healthy weight for your senior patient, client, or loved one. Your local Oasis Senior Advisor may be able to connect you with an appropriate specialist if you do not currently have one.

Do you know a senior who will be in need of new living arrangements in the new year?  Oasis Senior Advisors can help. Give us a call at 888-455-5838 and we can help identify options to address age-related concerns.