Making the Case for Seniors Losing Weight

Nov 9th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

There are all kinds of reasons for seniors to manage our weight and avoid being overweight, let alone obese.  We know now, indisputably, that being overweight can increase risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint deterioration and a multitude of other health problems.  However, researchers have now come up with another–obesity may affect your mental health as well as your physical health.

A study conducted at the University of Connecticut Health Center was reported in Psychosomatic Medicine and the results revealed

“When persons were classified into BMI categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese, both obese categories had significantly increased odds of any mood, anxiety, and alcohol use disorder, as well as any personality disorder…”

The study looked at data from a questionnaire given to 41,654 people, using their body mass index (BMI) and categorized them as underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, extremely obese.   obese.  This study found that extremely obese people were two times as likely to suffer depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, panics and phobias, and manic disorders. 


Some psychiatric meds can contribute to weight gain, but that doesn’t shed any light on these findings.  It’s clear that either people with mental health issues overeat or people overweight can be more depressed or anxious about their excess weight.  Whichever the case, if senior citizens find themselves overweight, and have experienced changes in mental health such as mood changes or trouble sleeping or feelings of excess sadness, it’s wise to consider talking with your primary care physician about the possibility of a psychiatric problem.  The screening can be done in your PCP’s office, and she/he can make a referral for further evaluation and treatment if there is evidence of a mental health issue.

It’s also wise to get serious about losing weight.  Go to the grocery store and stock up on fruits and veggies that you can eat with your fingers, use them for snacks rather than junk food.  And, of course, get exercise!  SCJ often describes exercise that is good for seniors, so just do a global search in the box at the top of this page, and you will find a gazillion articles on exercises for seniors.  As always, be sure to check with your physician about any limitations he/she may prescribe.



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