Age is not a hurdle to successful weight loss

The latest findings from the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS shows that by opting only for lifestyle changes, obese patients over the age of 60 can lose an equivalent amount of weight as younger people.

The researchers are optimistic that their study and subsequent findings will help correct prevailing societal misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programs in older people and dispel myths about older people’s potential benefits of reducing their weight.

The findings bases itself on the study of patient records from a hospital-based obesity service cited in the journal ‘Clinical Endocrinology.

The researchers did this retrospective study at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (WISDEM) at UHCW. The researchers randomly selected two hundred forty-two patients; these patients attended the WISDEM-based obesity service between 2005 and 2016. These people were divided into two groups by the researchers. One was those aged under 60 years, and the other were those aged between 60 and 78 years. The researchers then compared these two groups for weight loss during their time within the service.

All patients had their body weight measured before and after lifestyle interventions administered and coordinated within the WISDEM-based obesity service. The researchers calculated the percentage reduction in body weight across both groups. In comparison, the two groups were equivalent statistically, with those aged 60 years and over on average reducing their body weight by 7.3% compared with a bodyweight reduction of 6.9% in those under 60. A similar amount of time was spent by both groups within the obesity service. For those 60 years and over, on average 33.6 months, and 41.5 months for those younger than 60.

The hospital-based program used only lifestyle-based changes made specifically for each patient, focusing on dietary changes, psychological support, and physical activity encouragement. Most of the patients were morbidly obese with BMIs typically over 40Kgm-2, referred to the obesity service.

As we lose weight, we can lessen more than 50 comorbidities of obesity, including diabetes, psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety, osteoarthritis, and other mechanical problems. Obesity is associated with increased mortality and low well-being.

According to the lead author Dr. Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick: “Weight loss is significant at any age, but we’re more likely to develop the weight-related comorbidities of obesity as we get older. Many of these are analogous to the effects of aging, so you could say that the relevance of weight loss becomes heightened as we get older, and this is something that we should embrace.

Barber says broader societal attitudes feed into complacency and defeatist and attitudes in individuals.

“And maybe healthcare professionals are more reluctant to refer older patients for weight interventions when there are no justifications for that whatsoever. If anything, we should be promoting weight loss attempts and provisions of interventions in the older population, rather than holding back.”

The Connection Between Weight Loss and Age

It’s essential to maintain a healthy weight as you age. The excess weight combined with the strain of aging can make you more susceptible to illness and shorten your life. For middle-aged and older individuals, poor lifestyle habits and metabolism changes can cause difficulty in weight loss.

Why Does Weight Loss Get Typical with Age?

At the ages of the 20s and 30s, you may have noticed that excess weight came off quickly. For instance, you may have only needed minor changes to your eating habits and activity levels to lose weight. Weight loss requires more effort as you reach middle age due to the following factors given below.

Aging Muscles

Your muscle tissue naturally contracts and loses mass as you age older. Wear and tear on the body’s muscles, combined with hormonal fluctuations, may make the body less capable of replenishing damaged muscle cells. When your muscle cells diminish, unburned calories are more likely to become fat.

Losing weight can be more difficult due to the following reasons:

  • You may have lesser strength for training.
  • Your ligaments, muscles, and tendons may become rigid with age and lose tone, even with regular exercise.

Hormonal Changes

The hormonal shifts of menopause don’t certainly lead to weight gain in women. However, they can change where fat is stored. As a result, excess weight collects in the abdomen instead of hips and thighs. Along with the emotional effects of hormonal changes, this can lead to inadequate dietary and liveliness preferences.

Moreover, hormonal shifts in aging men and women may lead to muscle loss, decreasing movement, and slow metabolism.

Physical Strain

You may not be able to do the activities you once enjoyed when you age. For example, you may need to change running to walking, weight lifting to yoga, and hiking to swimming. Although low-impact exercises are still useful, you may need to do them more often or for more extended periods to achieve the same results.

Sometimes, older people may have health conditions that reduce or eliminate their ability to be active.

Lifestyle Changes

Many of you might experience multiple lifestyle changes, both good and bad, as you age. Retirement may dramatically diminish the amount of physical activity you get daily. Relaxation can lead to over-indulgence in unhealthy foods without compensating it by doing daily exercise.

Your friends falling ill or dying as they age older can lead to emotional eating and less focus on staying active. It is one of the many challenges that you might have to face.

Losing Weight at an Older Age

Annual physical exams are essential. Your doctor will observe your weight and screen for easily treatable problems.

Your doctor may make recommendations to help you lose weight. These could include:

  • following an exercise schedule or joining a gym
  • following a specific diet or weight loss program
  • assigning a target weight that is realistic for your body type
  • identifying which physical activities are safe for your age and health profile

Your doctor might also refer you to specialists in dietetics, physical therapy, cardiovascular health, and chiropractic care. These health professionals may offer more help with customizing a healthy diet and lifestyle for you. They may also recommend exercises to help you get active.

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