February 3, 2013
Dr. Selena Monk
The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all age groups in the United States. Over the past 30 years, the sum of older adults who are obese has doubled. This paper will attempt to show the impact on the quality of life, and the health issues related to obesity on the aging population. Although there is an increase in the rates of obesity among the older population; the majority are not obese and still enjoy active and healthy lives.
Disease Trends and Delivery of Health Care Services
As of 2010, the population over 65 in the United States was 40 million (13% of the total population), it is projected to rise to 71 million by 2030. The continued increase in obesity among older Americans is likely to be a much larger problem in the future. According to the CDC data the prevalence of obesity in seniors over 85 is about half that of adults between 50 and 59, the fact that more than 15% of the older American population is obese. As more of the population continues to age, the numbers of chronic illnesses that often accompany aging will increase. These costly chronic diseases are often worsened by obesity. The body fat mass that shows the level of obesity begins with the connection between energy intake and expenditure. When people consume more calories than they can burn, weight gain occurs. We need calories to sustain life and produce enough energy to be active; however to maintain a healthy weight we need to balance the amount we are eating with the energy we expend. In those who are 65 years and older how much we eat doesn’t decrease; we use less energy, hormonal changes occur, and we accumulate fat. Observations by professionals in health care have led to the belief that obesity tends to run in families. Science does show a connection in some cases between obesity and genes. Bouchard (1989) found that visceral fat is more influenced by a gene than subcutaneous fat. While you cannot change genetic inheritance, we can identify the other factors contributing to obesity and modify those. The environment in which we live also influences obesity. Our access to healthy food, safe places to walk, level of physical activity, what we eat, and lifestyle behaviors are all influenced by our environment. Our environment can prevent healthy eating habits or ability for adequate exercise in many ways. Trends towards eating out instead of preparing food at home, high fat, high calorie foods in workplace vending machines, lack of sidewalks and accessible recreation areas. Poverty and lower levels of education are also associated to obesity. Studies show that with lower incomes it is less expensive and quicker to eat processed foods that are high in calories than fresh vegetables and fruits. Rural areas have less to offer in exercise programs for elderly individuals. A person with osteoarthritis or a related type of arthritis may benefit from water aerobic exercise but the demographics of where they live most likely do not offer these types of programs. Conditions and illnesses that are related to both weight gain and obesity include; hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, digestive problems and depression. “Older adults are less likely to seek medical attention for symptoms of depression; like feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness (Center on Aging Society, 2003)”. Lack of sleep may add to obesity, as well as certain medications, such as steroids and some antidepressants; there are also some reports of weight gain with diabetes medications that stimulate appetite, slow metabolism, and in some cases cause water retention. Older adults are more likely to experience limitation for normal functioning due to chronic illness that can be the start of a stress-pain-depression cycle that change lifestyle patterns and lead to obesity. The extra emotional stress of being...