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Obesity is usually the result of a combination of factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and certain medications and illnesses. Studies show that almost 29% of Americans, 65 years or above were obese in 2020, which is almost a 4% increase from 2013. This upward trend is concerning if you consider how obesity increases the risk of many serious conditions like osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer — all of which can make health management an even bigger challenge for the elderly population.

Where to begin:

Before making any lifestyle changes, seniors should seek help from qualified health professionals. For instance, they need to speak with nutritionists and fitness trainers aside from their general physician if they want to combat obesity. They also need a specialized diet rich in calcium, fiber, and protein, as well as less sodium and unhealthy fats. Meanwhile, there are exercises that might not be particularly great for seniors like running, which can result in joint pain due to it being high-impact.

If the extra expenses are a big worry, seniors can use their health insurance to access services, like fitness centers and nutrition consultations. Medicare offers preventive services like weight loss programs that will facilitate obesity screenings and counseling. Medicare also covers medical nutrition therapy. But if seniors want the most coverage to help them lose weight, they should opt for Medicare Advantage. Case in point: the Medicare Advantage plan on KelseyCare shows how fitness programs are an integral part of the plan. These typically include memberships to health centers, as well as entry to fitness classes designed for older adults, which can help seniors fight obesity and stay healthy.

What to do next:

With the help of a team of health and wellness experts, here are a few lifestyle changes seniors can start with:

  • Make time for cardio and conditioning exercises:
    Many associate old age with physical decline, from losing muscle mass to gaining fat. However, these can actually be avoided by incorporating more movement in their everyday life. Seniors need around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week to improve circulation by raising the heart rate. This also gets them moving more and lets them enjoy activities they love such as dancing, swimming, or even just walking in the park. It’s also advisable to do muscle strengthening, flexibility, and balance exercises twice a week. Tai chi, chair yoga, and light resistance training are some of the options available to seniors to improve their overall wellbeing.
  • Try a keto lifestyle:
    Although Caroline Hawkins says it may be counterintuitive to have a high-fat diet if people are trying to lose weight, as the diet focuses on eating healthy fats. If seniors want to seriously consider keto, they can try the Biosense technology to get an accurate reading when it comes to their fat metabolism. They can discuss it with a doctor to determine how to use this data to let them safely follow a ketogenic diet. It can help obesity by triggering ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.
  • Lower cortisol levels:
    The body interprets stress as a sign that it should conserve energy. As a result, stress can lower metabolism and increase appetite, because the body believes it needs the energy to combat whatever is causing the stress. This is why it’s important for obese individuals to lower their cortisol levels — the body’s main stress hormone. Many find exercise to be effective in stress management, but they can also try relaxing activities such as meditating, cultivating plants, or simply reaching out to family and friends.
  • Cultivate good sleep habits:
    As seniors age, they produce less melatonin, which controls the sleep-wake cycle. This causes more fragmented sleep patterns and shorter sleep times. However, the Sleep Foundation states that not enough sleep can lead to weight gain because it increases appetite and slows metabolism. Lack of sleep also means less energy for physical activity, which contributes to weight gain. To get quality sleep, seniors need to ensure they have a solid bedtime routine, and stick to it. They should keep away from any electronics, ensure the temperature settings are correct, and maybe put on some relaxing music to induce sleepiness.

Obesity can trigger health issues in older adults, which is why addressing it immediately is very important. Establishing good habits when it comes to exercise, nutrition, stress management, and sleep can help them maintain a healthy weight and improve their quality of life in their golden years.

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