Does Having Muscle Weakness and Obesity Lead to Falls for Older Women?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As our society continues to age, experts project that falls and the health complications that can come with them will also rise. In fact, about two-thirds of all hospital costs ($34 billion) are connected directly or indirectly with falls among older adults.

Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). Currently, 5 percent to 13 percent of adults older than 60 have sarcopenia. Those rates may be as high as 50 percent in people 80-years-old and older.

Older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Obesity is a growing epidemic: More than one-third of adults 65-years-old and older were considered obese in 2010. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or “sarcopenic obesity,” is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures.

A team of researchers writing for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that it is important to identify people at risk for falls related to obesity and muscle weakness so that healthcare providers can offer appropriate solutions. Continue reading

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

More than one-third of Americans are considered obese based on their Body Mass Index (BMI). (BMI measures the ratio between your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or above signals obesity.)  As more and more of us age, we also are likely to see an increase in the number of older people who have a difficult time maintaining a healthy body weight. That’s a serious problem, since obesity can impact many parts of our health and daily life. For example, studies show people who are obese have more complications following heart surgery—an increasingly common surgery for older adults—than do people who are considered overweight (but not obese) or who maintain a “normal” weight.

Although we know that obese older adults may be surviving heart surgery with more complications, few researchers have studied how well they can manage daily activities like eating, bathing, walking short distances, dressing, getting in or out of bed, and using the toilet.

To learn more about this key issue, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined information from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

The Effects of Obesity on Cognitive Decline in Middle-Aged and Older African Americans

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Obesity has the potential to raise an older adult’s risk for having difficulty thinking and making decisions (also known as “cognitive decline” or dementia).  It is a complex health concern. Body mass index (BMI) is a scale that measures a person’s weight in relationship to their height.  Research shows that older adults who have an elevated BMI are at lower risk for dementia than people with lower BMIs.

However, BMI may not be the best measure for obesity’s effect on dementia. For example, signs such as carrying excess weight in the abdomen (also known as “belly fat”), and having a larger waist size, may better indicate whether a person is at higher risk for problems such as dementia.

Despite the fact that more African Americans are affected by obesity and dementia than  other individuals, few studies have examined the link between obesity and dementia among African Americans. Recently, a team of researchers examined this link, and published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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