Maybe you’ve struggled with your weight since the days of the Scarsdale diet. Or maybe you’ve gained the average one to two pounds a year, and as you age your weight is climbing past where it should be. If you’re older and overweight—meaning your body mass index (BMI) is 25 or higher—losing weight can give you solid gains in your overall health.
To better understand the health benefits, we spoke with Carlos Ventura, MD, a geriatrician at Banner Health Center in Buckeye, AZ. Dr. Ventura said that losing weight as a senior can help you:
- Improve the health of your heart, lungs and blood vessels
- Reduce joint discomfort and pain
- Improve circulation in your brain, arms and legs
- Breathe more easily
- Sleep better
- Stabilize your emotions and mental health
“Being overweight or obese can be related to problems in all these areas,” Dr. Ventura said.
Why it’s harder for seniors to lose weight
Unfortunately, it can be harder to lose weight as you get older. That’s because your metabolism and your stamina decrease as you age. Plus, arthritis or other conditions can make it harder to exercise. And if you’ve struggled with excess weight for years or decades, you might be frustrated and discouraged. You might feel like weight loss won’t ever work for you.
These steps can help seniors lose extra pounds
If you’re starting a weight-loss plan as a senior, Dr. Ventura has a few recommendations:
- First, talk to your doctor. “Seniors tend to have more medical issues that a doctor should check before they start a weight-loss program. Your doctor can help you examine any limitations you should consider. It is essential to develop a plan with your health care provider on how to tackle your efforts in a safe and steady way,” he said.
- Try using technology to support your weight-loss efforts. “Apps can help you track your food intake, calorie count and exercise completed per day,” he said. “I encourage seniors to use these tools to maximize their efforts, if at all possible.”
- Turn to other health care professionals for support. Along with your primary care provider, a dietitian can help you find ways to modify your diet so you can lose weight while you still enjoy your favorite foods. And a physical therapist or personal trainer can help you safely add more exercise into your routine.
- Consider prescription medications that can help with weight loss. Your doctor can help you evaluate whether weight-loss medicine is right for you.
The bottom line
It can be harder to lose weight as you get older, but it’s possible and the health improvements you gain can make it worth the effort. “Never give up. It may be a struggle, but it’s one worth fighting for. Your health is the top priority as you get older, and maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for everything else,” Dr. Ventura said.
If you need help creating a healthy, personalized plan for weight loss, contact your health care provider. To find a Banner Health doctor, dietitian or physical therapist, visit bannerhealth.com.
Check out these articles for more tips on staying healthy as you age: