We’ve talked before about the importance of exercise for senior citizens, but a recent large-scale national study has further illuminated the dangers of obesity in older women. The study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, tracked more than 36,000 post-menopausal women at 40 research centers and universities across the United States.
As explained in the New York Times, the women in the study enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative between 1993 and 1998 when they were between 66 and 79 years old, with an average age of 72. At the time of enrollment, researchers recorded height, weight and health information, and then followed up at regular intervals until the study concluded in 2012.
The results were then categorized on a sliding scale from women deemed healthy – meaning they “survived to age 85 and had no major chronic diseases and maintained the ability to walk” – to women who died before age 85.
In between those two categorizations were women who:
- began the study with one or more chronic diseases – such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and/or hip fracture – but did not develop any additional health problems, and remained mobile
- developed one or more of the chronic diseases during the study but remained mobile
- lost their mobility, requiring crutches, walkers or wheelchairs.
Relationship Between Obesity and Long-Term Survival in Aging Women
When researchers looked at the impact that obesity or being overweight had on women’s health they found a clear correlation. The heavier a woman was, the worse her chances of survival.
This has put a spotlight on fitness in older women, a demographic often overlooked by the movement towards a healthier American lifestyle that primarily focuses on children and childhood obesity. Post-menopausal women are prone to weight gain and losing the weight is often more difficult later in life. Obesity is an issue that affects both the caregiver generation and the older generation, especially since obesity markedly increases the chances of losing mobility, which in turn necessitates greater caregiving needs earlier in life.
As Americans of all ages move towards an overall healthier lifestyle, we must remain aware that obesity is an issue that affects every age, and work towards a healthier future for ourselves and for our aging loved ones.
For more information on this study, visit The New Old Age Blog.