Maintaining A Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and well-being.

Older people who don’t get enough of the right nutrients can be too thin or too heavy. Some may be too thin because they don’t get enough food. But others might be overweight partly because they get too much of the wrong types of foods. Keeping track of what you are eating could help you see which foods you should eat less of, more of, or not at all.

 Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and well-being.

As you grow older, if you continue to eat the same types and amounts of food but don’t become more active, you’ll probably gain weight. That’s because metabolism (how you burn the calories you eat) can slow down with age.

Balancing Calories

The secret to maintaining a healthy weight is to balance “energy in” and “energy out.” Energy in means the calories you get from the food and beverages you consume. Energy out means the calories you burn for basic body functions and during physical activity.

Balancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories burned by being physically active helps to maintain a healthy weight. Check your weight once a week. Then you’ll know whether you are balancing the calories in and calories out or whether you need to be more active.

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States, and the number of older people who are overweight or obese is also increasing. But frailty is also a problem, and not just in thin people. As you grow older, you can lose muscle strength, but you also get more fat tissue. This can make you frail, and in time, you might have problems getting around and taking care of yourself. Being overweight puts you more at risk for frailty and disability.

Living Healthy, Not Losing Weight

Just losing weight is not necessarily the answer. That’s because sometimes when older people lose weight, they lose even more muscle than they already have lost. That puts them at greater risk for becoming frail and falling. They also might lose bone strength and be at more risk for a broken bone after a fall. Exercise helps you keep muscle and bone. Also, for some people, a few extra pounds late in life can act as a safety net should they get a serious illness that limits how much they can eat for a while.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage people 65 and older who are overweight to try to avoid gaining more weight. But, those who are very overweight (obese) might be helped by intentional weight loss, especially if they are at risk for heart disease, suggest the Guidelines. So, if you think you weigh too much, check with your doctor before starting a diet. He or she can decide whether or not losing a few pounds will be good for you and how you can safely lose weight.

Information from the NIH Institute on Aging