Obesity in Older Adults Abstract Obesity is a potential health issue that involves serious medical complications. In older adults, the intensity of obesity and related problems is very high. Although the disease is highly endemic in Western countries, the number of obese people across the globe is growing rampantly…
Introduction Obesity can be simply referred to a medical condition caused by excessive accumulation of body fat, which can eventually cause adverse effects on one’s health. To define, “obesity is an excess of body fat that frequently results in a significant impairment of health.” (Das, 2010, p.44). Although people use the terms obesity and overweight interchangeably, in fact, obesity and overweight are two distinct physical conditions which have already been clearly defined using scientific standards. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the common tool used to identify whether or not a person’s body fat is excessive. According to BMI standards, an individual is said to be overweight when his BMI lies between the ranges of 25-29.9. The person becomes obese when his BMI goes beyond the range 30. Evidently, obesity has become a major health issue among older adults. According to Villareal et al (as cited in Newman, 2009), the prevalence of obesity in people between the age range 50-69 increased by 56% in 2000 whereas in people above the age 70 it increased by 36%, since 1991. Causes of Obesity The relationship between energy consumption and expenditure is the major determinant of the body-fat mass. Medical practitioners opine that obesity occurs when an individual consumes more calories (in the form of food) than what he actually needs. People require calories not only to sustain life, but also to maintain a satisfactory body weight. However, studies point to the fact that energy expenditure in 50-65 year old age group considerably declines and therefore likelihood of obesity increases as one becomes old. It has also been identified that hormonal changes in older adults (65 years of age and older) during aging may result in excessive accumulation of fat. Various changes associated with aging, including resistance to leptin, contribute to older adulthood obesity. As Newman (2009) argues, genetic features, socio-environmental factors, and several other elements contribute to obesity. Evidently, heredity is one of the major determinants of obesity. In other words, biological inheritance plays a significant role in fat variations. The researchers like Bouchard established that genotype greatly influences visceral fat. Since an individual’s type of food choices, level of physical activity, and other lifestyle behaviors are influenced by his surrounding environment, socio-environmental factors greatly affect his body fat levels. To illustrate, increasing “eating out” food trends in Western countries directly lead to the consumption of excess fat content food and thereby obesity. While analyzing the global obesity data, it is obvious that obesity is more prevalent in Western countries, and especially in the United States. Several other factors including lack of sleep and continuous use of drugs also cause obesity. Some recent studies claim that issues such as joint pain and decreased mobility are also potential contributory factors to obesity as they cause decreased activity and thereby a proportionate decline in energy expenditure in older adults. Symptoms of Obesity As discussed earlier, a BMI of over 30 is the primary symptom of obesity. Large body frame is another notable symptom of obesity in older adults. Adults with obesity would face difficulties in doing their daily activities. In addition, breathlessness is another noticeable symptom ...
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