American life expectancy has reached a new high of 77.8 years. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are currently 27 million people over the age of 70 years old in the U.S., and that number is projected to nearly double by 2030.
Just because people are living longer, however, doesn’t necessarily mean they are living healthier. The prevalence of obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, has increased over the past 25 years in all age groups. Roughly 34.5% of men above the age of 20 are obese and elderly Americans have it even worse. In fact, from 1991 to 2000, a 56% increase occurred in obese people between the ages of 60 and 69 years old.
“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University. “It used to be thought that older patients don’t respond to treatment for obesity as well as younger patients. People assume that they couldn’t exercise as much or for whatever reason they couldn’t stick to diets as well.”
Here are some elderly health tips that will help combat obesity and improve your overall quality of life:
- Slow motion exercise — If you’re in your 60s, 70s, 80s, or beyond, you probably won’t — and shouldn’t — be able to work out like you did in your 20s. And that’s okay. You do need to still get exercise, though. With proper personal training, slow motion exercise typically only requires 20 to 30 minute sessions once or twice a week.
- Beware of certain medications — Unfortunately, as you age, you’ll likely have to start taking more and more medications. Obviously, you should be careful with any type of medication, but there are a few that you should specifically watch out for if you’re trying to combat obesity. The following medications have been known to cause weight gain: Antidepressants, antiepileptics (antiseizure), antipsychotics, antihyperglycemic drugs, steroids, and beta-blockers.
- Hydrate often — No matter how old you are, you could always benefit from drinking more water. Elderly individuals can find it difficult to identify when they are thirsty, but it’s recommended to get at least 64 ounces of water each day. Additionally, if you are struggling to drink a lot of liquid, consider eating tomatoes, cucumbers, and other foods that are naturally rich in water.
- Practice portion control — Typically, as you grow older each decade, you’ll need about 100 fewer calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. But there are plenty of elderly Americans that attempt to eat the same way they did when they were younger. Try cutting back on your plate size and don’t eat as often as you did in the past.
- Start small — You don’t have to dive headfirst into a workout regime. Doing only 10 minutes of physical activity a day is enough to improve your mobility and life span. Try to make it a habit, too. Choose a trigger — something that incites you to get some activity — and a reward for when you’re done. After a few times, the habit will stick and you can start increasing the amount of activity you get, hastening you towards a healthier lifestyle!