The Gallup Poll, a well-respected polling and survey source, noted that “most Americans who are over 35 are now significantly more likely to be obese than those who were that same age four years ago.” We are all aware that extra pounds can lead to significant health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and a myriad of related issues. The federal government has targeted (to a limited degree) childhood obesity, but as with so many other aspects of life our elderly have been bypassed. This is particularly important for the elderly because as we age, “fat deposits seem to reduce from sub-cutaneous areas and shift to more dangerous locations like within visceral organs and within muscles.” (www.craftmatic.com, “Why is obesity in elderly more dangerous?”). This increases the risks of major organ failure, thus increasing the chances of death.
It’s all linked together. Take for example the logical path of gaining weight. Children play all the time, or at least they should be active much of the day. As these young people eat right and remain active, their bodies develop into maturity. Mature young adults, although now having more sedentary roles due to their jobs, begin to see their bodies fill out with both muscle and fat. As these adults further age, their active lifestyles often slow down. When they become less active they are more likely to develop fat in their bodies, especially if their diets remain unchanged. Lack of mobility coupled with poor dietary choices leads to an overweight and out of shape older adult, who is now susceptible to various health issues, many of which can be life threatening. Interestingly, this pattern is most often found in developed countries. Typically, elder groups have the greatest percentage of obese members, which leads to all sorts of medical and health insurance issues.
The solution is simple: Eat right and exercise more. We all realize these solutions as the “right” thing to do, but getting our elders to follow these solutions is not so easy. Here are a few suggestions:
• Keep the focus on reducing weight.
• Develop a simple exercise routine.
• If necessary, begin your exercise program with easy exercises, such as those in a pool or from a chair.
• Have a nutritionist set up a proper diet for age and weight.
• And, of course, seek the advice of your elder’s physician before making any drastic change in either his or her diet or exercise.
Today’s lifestyles are all over the place with both variety and intensity. To live longer and remain as healthy as possible, it takes only a small amount of effort to select which style of life is best for your health. Opportunities abound for exercise variety and diet choices are increasingly plentiful. Ultimately, there are few legitimate excuses for not staying as healthy as possible as we age. Just do it!
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.