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Obesity More Likely to Cause Disability than Death in Elderly

People above the age of 70 years may have high chance of becoming disabled due to //obesity, though they do not have increased risk of death from being obese.

A study by University of South Florida School of Aging Studies researcher published in the August issue of The Gerontologist suggests that obesity in later life has little impact on life expectancy in adults over age 70, but obesity does have significant impact on the chances of the obese elderly becoming disabled.

Research had said that obesity had little effect on life expectancy for either older men or women once they had reached the age of 70. Active life expectancy is, however, significantly shorter for the elderly obese and disabled life expectancy significantly longer.

Reynolds and her co-authors found it more likely that the obese elderly will live a longer period of time having difficulty with activities of daily life (ADLs), such as bathing, feeding or dressing. Having difficulty with ADL tasks is often associated with the need for personal care. This can make the excess years of disability difficult for individuals, their families and society, said the researchers.

The research team examined data collected between 1993 and 1998 through a nationally representative survey of adults of age 70 and older. The designation “obesity” was based on calculations of body mass index, which is calculated from self-reports of height and weight. Analyzing the effect of obesity on the elderly and defining “active life” as having no difficulty in performing any functions necessary for day-to-day life, researchers drew several conclusions.

About 13 percent of the population over age 70 was obese in 1993, and women were more likely than men to be obese, said the researchers. They had found that obese adults no more likely to die, but clearly more likely to become disabled. This finding suggests obesity-related death is less of a concern than disability in this age
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