Obesity in the Elderly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 37% of adults age 60 and over are obese. Weight that is higher than what is considered a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is used as a screening tool for overweight or obesity.

Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health notes that older age and obesity are two of the most powerful risk factors for uncontrolled high blood pressure which is a major factor in stroke and death in the senior years. A high BMI and obesity, especially around the waist, are also associated with an increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Adult Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness.

To calculate BMI, see the Adult BMI Calculator or determine BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart.

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity.


Health Consequences of Obesity

All people and especially older adults who have obesity, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • All-causes of death
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Cancer (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning


Strategies to Approach Obesity

Obesity is a complex problem and there is no single strategy to prevent or reverse the condition. The best approach to obesity is to never let your weight go above a healthy range.  If you are overweight or obese, follow these tips to help you achieve your weight loss goals:

Weigh yourself. Many people don’t know how much they weigh because they are afraid to see the number on the scale. However, you cannot change a problem which you do not acknowledge. Weigh yourself then calculate your BMI to find out the appropriate weight for your height.

Eat healthy. Consuming the right amount of calories for your body type and activity level is a key factor in losing and maintaining weight. Healthy eating is not about fad diets. Instead it is about a lifestyle that includes eating the right types of food, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consumer with the number of calories your body uses.

Physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for good health, and it’s especially important if you’re trying to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight. According to the CDC:

  • When losing weight, more physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy or “burns off.” The burning of calories through physical activity, combined with reducing the number of calories you eat, creates a “calorie deficit” that results in weight loss.
  • Most weight loss occurs because of decreased caloric intake. However, evidence shows the only way to maintain weight loss is to be engaged in regular physical activity.
  • Physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.


For people who are morbidly obese weight-loss (bariatric) surgery may be the best option to lose weight. While the risk of surgical complications does increase with age, bariatric surgery can be performed on patients over 65.



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