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The Importance of a Balanced Weight in the Elderly

All of us experience weight gain and weight loss throughout our lives. Pregnancy, illness, athletic training, puberty and aging can all cause weight fluctuations in our bodies. Maintaining a healthy weight is a focus for all of us, but especially for aging seniors who can be more at risk for complications from major weight changes.

Weight changes in seniors are often related to pre-existing conditions. It can be the medical diagnosis or the medications being used to treat it that can be the culprit. Metabolism plays a large role in a person's ability to regulate their weight. Every person's situation is different. For caregivers, recognizing the signs of weight gain or loss as related to specific causes versus something more serious is an important distinction.

Weight Gain

Weight gain occurs when there is an imbalance between the caloric intake and output, no matter how old we are. Metabolism plays an important role in weight management because it is the internal process of breaking down consumed calories into usable energy. The higher a person's metabolism, the more efficiently his or her body converts calories into energy, and the greater the chance of weight loss.

However, metabolism naturally slows as we age. Ask anyone over 40 and they will tell you they just can't eat like they used to. This slowdown of converting calories into energy coupled with a less active lifestyle can result in a lot of unused calories that are then stored as fat. Continuously eating the same high-calorie meals without activity to expend them will result in added pounds.

Large weight gain can be detrimental to a person's overall health, no matter what their age. For seniors with existing heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic conditions, unnecessary weight gain can exacerbate them. Seniors often also have weaker immune systems, so extra pounds can make it even more difficult to fight infection.

Weight Loss

Just like weight gain, weight loss can occur because of medications or a medical condition affecting a person. But losing weight is perhaps more worrisome than gaining weight for a senior who has a compromised immune system or has a chronic condition. Slower metabolism due to natural aging also means seniors lose lean body mass and muscle.

Weight loss in seniors can also occur due to physical changes – a stroke or the loss of teeth can make it challenging to chew or swallow food. There is actually an increase in the hormone that causes us to feel full, so the feeling of being hungry is not as strong. Sensory changes in smell and taste also change as we age.

Depression due to a change in living arrangements, the loss of a loved one or other situations can result in a decreased appetite. Depression in the elderly population is a real concern, as it related to food consumption and emotional health. Any concerns about depression in your loved one should be immediately addressed.

A Balanced Weight

The good news is that there are lots of ways to bring weight back into balance. While side effects of some medications cannot be helped, there are ways for seniors and their caregivers to make positive choices in the right direction.

Drink lots of water! Dehydration is common in seniors. Drinking large amounts of water helps everyone process calories, stay hydrated, absorb nutrients and flush out toxins.

Be active! Walking, jogging, swimming and cycling are examples of heart-pumping activities that can amp up a person's metabolism. Any kind of workout regimen should be appropriate to the person's individual abilities. Active seniors who stay on their feet tend to keep their metabolisms high, thus helping to maintain a healthy body weight.

Eat Right. By eating more small meals, seniors increase their metabolism more than eating less. A balance of the right nutrients is essential, too. Seniors help increase their metabolism by incorporating complete protein, fruits & vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado in each meal.

Take your vitamins! Vitamin C, vitamin B, green tea & ginseng all promote a faster metabolism. Seniors may take multivitamins and drink enhanced beverages to get these extra nutrients.

If you have any questions or concerns about your loved one, please speak with the nursing staff or dietary staff at Heritage Health.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

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