Obese (Overweight) Aged Persons and Strict Diet and Exercise
As you age, maintaining a healthy weight — or losing weight if you're overweight — may be more difficult. Your metabolism generally slows, meaning that your body burns fewer calories. Calories that were once used to meet your daily energy needs instead are stored as fat. Your level of activity may decrease, resulting in unwanted weight gain.Over time, your heart muscle becomes a less efficient pump, working harder to pump the same amount of blood through your body. Also, your blood vessels become less elastic. Hardened fatty deposits may form on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis), narrowing the passageway through the vessels. The natural loss of elasticity, in combination with atherosclerosis, makes your arteries stiffer, causing your heart to work even harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension).
Being obese and being overweight are not exactly the same thing. An obese person has a large amount of extra body fat, not just a few extra pounds. People who are obese are very overweight and at risk for serious health problems. Obesity in young people can cause illnesses that once were thought to be problems only for adults, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol levels, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the body has trouble converting food to energy, resulting in high blood sugar levels. As they get older, people who are obese are more likely to develop heart disease, congestive heart failure, bladder problems, and, in women, problems with the reproductive system. Obesity also can lead to stroke, greater risk for certain cancers such as breast or colon cancer, and even death.
The good news is that even a modest weight loss can bring health improvements. In many cases, you can accomplish this by eating healthier, exercising and changing behaviors. For people who don't respond to lifestyle changes, prescription medications and surgical techniques are available to enhance the weight-loss process.
It's never too late for obese adults to improve their heart risks through diet and exercise, the results of a new small study suggests
The researchers, who enrolled 27 obese men and women age 65 or older, found that calorie cutting and exercise helped participants shed pounds and lower their blood pressure, blood sugar and blood fats called triglycerides.
What's more, there was a sharp drop in the number with metabolic syndrome, a collection of conditions that raise a person's risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Diet changes and exercise have been shown to improve heart disease risk factors in young and middle-aged obese adults, but less is known about the benefits for older adults.
In fact, there's some controversy over advocating weight loss at older ages, according to the authors of the new study. For one, a heavier weight is relatively less important in the health risks of an elderly person compared with a younger adult. In addition, many older adults are frail, which can make lifestyle changes difficult.
But the new findings show that older obese adults can indeed alter their lifestyle, and benefit from it, according to Dr. Dennis T. Villareal of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis."We demonstrate that older adults can successfully lose weight and are compliant with interventions," he told Reuters Health.
Beyond that, they can also reap the potential heart benefits seen in studies of younger obese adults, according to Villareal.
He and his colleagues based their findings on a 6-month study of sedentary, obese adults randomly assigned to follow diet and exercise therapy (17 subjects) or to serve as a non-exercising comparison group (10 subjects). All of them had mild to moderate physical limitations and nearly all had metabolic syndrome. The average body mass index was 30 or higher.
Those with metabolic syndrome had at least three of a conditions that increased the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar and abdominal obesity.
Over six months, the treatment group cut calories and attended group exercise classes three days a week. In the end, they lost an average of 18 pounds, versus no weight change in the comparison group. The number with metabolic syndrome fell by 59 percent, while the comparison group again showed no change.
More studies are needed to see if this translates into less heart disease and a longer life, according to the researchers.
For now, older adults who want to make lifestyle changes should talk to their doctors about the best and safest ways to do so, Villareal said.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States. More than 2,600 people die of heart disease every day, which translates into one cardiovascular death every 33 seconds.
Despite the seriousness and prevalence of heart disease, cardiovascular problems aren't inevitable. There are steps you can take -- eating a healthy, low-fat diet and getting plenty of exercise -- to reduce your risk. On the other hand, bad habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol overburden our already busy hearts and cause them to break down.
"Cardiovascular disease is a real problem in the United States," said Elijah Saunders, M.D., Head of the Hypertension Section of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Division of Cardiology. "The average American diet is high in fat, cholesterol, calories and salt, and our lifestyles are far too sedentary."