One of the most common New Year's resolutions sure to top lists in 2017? Losing weight. And while shedding unwanted pounds is hard at any age, it can be especially challenging for seniors. Still, losing weight and keeping it off is a worthwhile endeavor as doing so can improve both your health and quality of life. Here's a closer look at the issue of weight loss for older adults, along with several tips aimed at helping seniors reach their weight loss goals.
Why Senior Weight Management Matters
Poor eating habits and inactivity add up weight gain. If left unchecked, this often leads to excessive weight gain and obesity — both of which are linked with a number of health complications. Seniors, in particular, are at risk for clinical consequences, including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, urinary incontinence and even depression, according to an article published in the British Medical Bulletin.
Unfortunately, the problem of obesity among seniors is increasing as the population ages. Not only is this troubling at the individual level, but it also has significant implications for society at large due to the burden it creates for the health care system.
Weight Loss for Seniors
While losing weight is a simple concept in theory — expend more calories than you take in — it is a more complex process in reality. But for seniors, the “battle of the bulge” can be even harder to the natural slowing down of the metabolism. In other words, a 65-year-old might eat the same meal he ate at age 20 and yet burn calories at a slower rate. This can be confusing and frustrating for seniors as they watch the pounds creep up on the scale.
The good news? Age doesn't have to be an obstacle to weight loss and weight management with a few helpful strategies in place.
The word “diet” has gotten a bad rap lately, and with good reason. Many fad diets work for a short period of time but end up backfiring, with people gaining rather than losing weight in the long run. There are diets, however, which adopt a more lifestyle-centered approach. According to a recent US News and World Report roundup of “Best Diets for Seniors” diets like the DASH, TLC and Mediterranean diets are well-suited for seniors not only because they support weight loss, but also because they can help control common conditions experienced by many older adults, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
And while cutting back on the calories can be an important part of the weight loss process, cutting back on the right calories may be even more important. As registered dietician and diabetes educator Amy Campbell told US News and World Report, “One concern for older people is getting enough protein. We need more as we age.” The takeaway? It's not necessarily about following a specific diet, says Campbell, but instead about choosing a “well-rounded diet with extra protein.”
And Don't Forget Exercise
The role of physical activity cannot be overstated when it comes to weight loss. For sedentary seniors moving toward more active lifestyles, starting small can help prevent injuries while avoiding burnout. Also essential? Choosing a program that you can actually stick with. This means honestly assessing your own physical capabilities and adopting a can-do attitude.
You don't have to run a marathon to be active in your golden years. In fact, small changes — such as walking 30 minutes a day or taking a low-impact fitness class at your local gym or senior center — can lead to big health rewards.
While weight management may be complex, its solution is basic: Keep it simple. As director of preventive cardiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center Michael Davidson told US News and World Report, the best eating and exercise plans prioritize the question, “What can be a lifelong change instead of just a short-term fix for the patient?” Whether you've tried and failed in the past or are setting out on your first weight loss journey, letting this question be your guide may make all the difference in 2017.
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