Weight Maintenance Key to Better Health in Old Age?
by Dr. K.J. McLaughlin
I go to the gym five days per week and continue to see people who are over 60 years of age working out, taking fitness classes, and participating in various types of physical activities. Although this is an encouraging trend, the more common scenario is to see the younger set or middle-aged members.
Now, although I would hardly call this a scientific observation, it seems to me that more adults approaching the age of 60 and beyond really need to maintain a comfortable level of physical activity.
Let me explain why. Some recent research has indicated that even a modest amount of activity completed randomly throughout your adult years can control weight gain and confer a significant degree of risk reduction in the development of heart disease.
This British study looked at 1,273 subjects and followed them for an average of 60 years from birth to the ages of 60 to 64. Their body mass index (BMI) was measured throughout their childhood, mid-life, and into their senior years. The subjects also were assessed for other risk factors for the development of heart disease, including the thickness of their neck carotid arteries. This measurement indicates the presence of atherosclerotic disease, or atherosclerosis.
Not to anyone’s surprise, the researchers found that the earlier in life excessive weight gain occurred, the greater the risk profile, including increased thickness of the carotid artery. These participants were also more likely to develop diabetes and experience high blood pressure.
The results of this study also found something quite interesting. If the subjects lost any weight throughout their lives to the extent that it placed them in a different weight category according to BMI (from obese to overweight), the thickness of their carotid artery was lower than subjects who maintained their weight and never lost any during their lifetime. This relationship occurred even in those subjects who lost the weight, but regained it later. This reduction in risk accounted for a nine percent difference in the development of a heart attack or stroke.
This study also indicated that weight gain was a direct function of aging. By the time the participants reached the age of 36, 27% of them were classified as being overweight or obese. However, by the time they reached the ages of 60 to 64, 67% of them were similarly classified. Sadly, this study also indicated that children who were classified as being overweight or obese were much more likely to stay that way into their elder years. Approximately 67% of those subjects maintained their classification into their senior years.
Of the total number of participants who completed this study follow-up, only 15% had lost any weight during their adult lives. Of those, only two percent were able to keep it off successfully.
The most important aspect that this study shows is what the findings were at the end of the study. For those who were between 60 and 64 years old, compared to those who were classified as having a normal weight, those who were overweight or obese had higher levels of inflammation, higher blood pressure, and an almost 2.5-times increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Although this study does show how even transient weight loss can affect the risk profile for the development of heart disease in adults, it also indicates how important prevention can also be. Staying physically active throughout your life and into your senior years is one of the best ways to control this unhealthy trend.
Sources for Today’s Article:
- Busko, M., “Even Transient Weight Loss in Lifetime Helps Heart Health,” Medscape web site, May 22, 2014; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/825562.
- Charakida, M., et al., “Lifelong patterns of BMI and cardiovascular phenotype in individuals aged 60—64 years in the 1946 British birth cohort study: an epidemiological study,” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology May 21, 2014; doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(14)70103-2.
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Dr. K.J.McLaughlin is a chiropractor with 27 years of clinical experience. In addition, he has degrees in physical education, nutrition and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with an interest in anti-aging medicine. He has also spent time studying health promotion and the effect that health education has upon health outcomes. Dr. McLaughlin has a diverse professional background which has involved clinical management, teaching, health promotion and health coaching and brings a unique passion to his work.