When discussing issues around weight, the focus is almost always on losing it. However, the key to maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about dropping the numbers on the scale—especially for seniors. It’s often a more significant concern when older adults are underweight rather than overweight.
Several studies have shown that being underweight presents a higher risk of health complications for older people than being overweight. The National Institutes of Health has suggested that it might be healthier for older adults to maintain a body mass index score between 25 and 27, rather than under 24, as recommended for younger people. While this doesn’t negate the potential long-term health concerns that excess weight can cause, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle for seniors trying to keep themselves at a healthy weight.
The Dangers of Being Underweight
Most seniors are aware that being overweight can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. But the potential dangers for underweight seniors are less commonly documented. Seniors with chronic conditions such as cancer or gastrointestinal issues often struggle to maintain a healthy weight; other seniors stop eating a balanced diet because food is no longer as palatable as they get older.. No matter the cause, there are many compelling reasons for seniors not to discount unwanted weight loss.
Underweight seniors may be at a greater risk of serious injury from falls. Falls present a real concern to virtually every senior, but the lack of muscle and fat to cushion a blow can put underweight seniors in more danger if a fall does happen. This is especially worrisome for seniors with low bone density. Being either underweight or overweight can also increase your chance of falling in the first place.
Being underweight weakens your immune system and increases your risk of nutrient deficiency. If the cause of weight loss is due to poor or insufficient diet, the lack of vital nutrients might make it harder for your body to heal from injuries. In one study, underweight stroke patients fared notably worse than those who were at a healthier weight. Overall, the effects of being underweight are as wide-reaching as they are troubling.
Combat Unwanted Weight Loss In Seniors
Many factors may cause a senior to lose weight. Illness is not the cause of all unwanted weight loss; often, the root of unwanted weight loss is easily treatable. Of course, the goal isn’t merely for seniors to gain weight by ingesting more calories. Healthy weight comes from good food and active habits. But if seniors are no longer enjoying what they eat, it becomes hard to keep up with a balanced diet.
Often, a lack of enjoyment in food can cause weight loss for seniors. As we get older, our sense of taste often becomes less sensitive. Without the incentive of a good-tasting meal, seniors can struggle to motivate themselves to eat. Many seniors revert to over-salting their dishes to increase the taste, leading to other health issues associated with too much sodium.
The key is to incorporate healthy, flavorful food into your diet to make eating enjoyable as well as nourishing. Using more spices, trying unfamiliar flavor profiles, and making sure food is hot are excellent ways to rediscover the joy of eating in later years.
If weight loss was sudden and seemingly without cause, it may be a sign of a more serious medical concern. Talk to your doctor about potential causes, and eliminate illness as a possible cause before trying out solutions at home.
The Importance of Body Positivity
Aside from health concerns, seniors are not immune to the same self-esteem issues surrounding weight that many young people experience. An “ideal” weight may look a little different for everyone, and setting it should be a process rather than an immovable goal. As in all things, the importance is balance. While we all continue to keep up with healthy habits, seniors must practice body positivity in addition to managing weight.
A recent study suggested that higher self-esteem may provide a buffer against several health concerns for seniors. Low self-esteem can result in a higher cortisol production, which has many negative health impacts. In general, happier seniors are healthier seniors. Maintaining a good weight as well as keeping a positive attitude is a challenge for any senior. An in-home caregiver can provide essential services to help underweight seniors realize those goals. By planning delicious and nutritious meals, running errands to the grocery to keep the refrigerator stocked, and taking care of meal preparation that seniors might find challenging, caregivers ensure seniors eat well and enjoy it.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.