July 9, 2012

America is currently suffering an obesity epidemic. Headlines bring our attention to the problem of obesity in adults and, increasingly, children–but what about obesity in the elderly population?

In the past, seniors were most concerned about being underweight, but as the number of elderly obese people continues to climb, this is changing. According to Congressional Research Service estimates, if the current pattern is continued, nearly half of the elderly population will be obese by 2030.

Elderly people, especially those who live in retirement communities or assisted living facilities, face several factors that increase their risk of becoming overweight. Assisted living communities provide three meals a day, and these tend to be calorie-rich and large in portion size. And as we age, we naturally slow down. The loss of mobility means that many seniors aren’t burning off those extra calories, contributing to obesity in the elderly population.

Being mindful of portion size, and choosing lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with maintaining an exercise routine, can help seniors stay slim and avoid elderly obesity.

What is Obesity?

Obesity means having too much body fat. There are several ways to measure your body fat. Excessive weight around the middle and health problems such as high blood pressure can signal that obesity is a problem. One of the best ways to calculate body fat is using your BMI, or Body Mass Index.

BMI is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 means it’s likely that you are considered to be overweight, while a BMI of above 30 means it’s likely that you are obese. Use an online calculator such as this one provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to calculate your BMI.

What are the Risks of Obesity?

Obesity can both cause serious medical conditions and also exacerbate currently existing medical problems. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, weighing too much can put you at risk for:

Coronary heart disease

High blood pressure

Type 2 diabetes


Breathing problems

Certain cancers

In other words, being overweight raises the risk of developing many of the most life-threatening diseases that we face today. Some of the factors that contribute to elderly obesity are genetic in origin. Unfortunately, those are out of our control. But others are determined by our lifestyles. Following a healthy eating plan and maintaining an active lifestyle are a sure way to lower your health risks, and you’re never too old to start.

To learn tips for managing elderly obesity, watch for our next post.