Q: Two years ago I attended my 50th high school reunion. It was wonderful to reconnect with people I haven’t seen since we graduated. There was a small number of classmates I recognized immediately and the appearance of others had changed dramatically. One common theme was weight gain. Recently my doctor suggested that I should lose some weight to decrease my issues with arthritis. I have made attempts but without much success. I’ve been down this road before and have always managed to take off the pounds when I put my mind to it. Is it that much harder to lose weight when you are older?
A: Yes! Unfortunately for many reasons losing weight as a person ages is more difficult. Around thirty years of age we start to lose muscle mass. This is an important factor because muscles use up about 3x more calories than fat. Less muscle mass equates to a slower metabolism which means we should consume fewer calories. Dr. Oz of television fame states our metabolism slows down 5% every decade after a person turns forty. Declining levels of estrogen and testosterone simply adds to the weight loss challenge.
It is estimated two thirds of Americans are overweight. Weight gain impacts all ages. The concern should not be focused on body image but on overall health. For older adults who are more likely to have chronic health conditions excess weight can have a negative impact on their functional status and declining health.
This may lead someone to think it is a lost cause to even attempt to lose weight if they have reached the status of older adult. It is not impossible but just takes more effort and planning. What we eat and our lifestyle impact our weight. Exercise is an essential factor during the weight loss journey. The exercise routine is going to vary from person to person. Walking or jogging may be the answer for some people while a person who has orthopedic problems may have to focus on strength and weight training.
Ask your physician about referring you to a nutritionist who could counsel you on what foods to incorporate into your daily diet and what foods to avoid/cut down on. Visit www.healthyliving4me.org to find out if there is a Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults workshop offered near where you live. Check out local exercise groups which may be held at a Senior Center in your town or if possible schedule a session with a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.