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Obesity among seniors

on Sat, 12/27/2014 - 11:18

I am currently taking a course regarding elder care and the importance of understanding the needs of older clients and the responsibilities of their families... Obesity is the leading cause of related illnesses and death in North America!! This an a preventable illness. Elders can slowing become obese even though they were not overweight when they were young because they are no longer as mobile as they were young... Everyone needs to understand the impact of obesity...

Obesity is a leading cause of preventable illness and death in North America. In recent years, the number of overweight people in industrialized countries has increased significantly, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has called obesity an epidemic.

People who are obese are at a much higher risk for serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, gallbladder disease, and different cancers than people who have a healthy weight.

Although seniors today are generally healthier than the seniors of previous generations, and although the stereotype of frail seniors has been replaced by a new stereotype of vigorous and physically fit seniors in the media and advertising, many older Canadians nevertheless experience limitations on their activities. In part, these are the familiar problems associated with aging bodies — from arthritis to reduced vision — and in part, they are brought on by health trends common to the general population, such as obesity and sedentary lifestyles. For example, between 1979 and 2004, the incidence of obesity among seniors aged 75 or older increased from 11% to 24%; among those aged 65 to 74 it increased from 20% to 25%.1

Of Canadians aged 65 or older, the percentage of seniors considered to be obese has increased from 22% in 1978/79 2 to 29% in 2008, 3 and 17.9% in 2010. 

In total, 28% of senior men and 31% of senior women were obese, which is greater than the proportions for all Canadians aged 18 years and older who were considered to be obese (26% of men and 24% of women). 3 According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2012), almost 60% of all Canadian adults to 14.1 million Canadians, are overweight or obese.

Percentage who were underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese (self-reported), by age group, household population 18 or older, Canada, 2010

And the trend continues….

Causes of Obesity

Obesity occurs when your body consumes more calories than it burns. In the past, many people thought that obesity 

was simply caused by overeating and under-exercising, resulting from a lack of will power and self-control. Although these are significant contributing factors, doctors recognize that obesity is a complex medical problem that involves genetic, environmental,behavioural, and social factors. All these factors play a role in determining a person's weight. Recent research shows that in some cases, certain genetic factors may cause the changes in appetite and fat metabolism that lead to obesity. For a person who is genetically prone to weight gain (e.g., has a lower metabolism) and who leads an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle, the risk of becoming obese is high.

Although a person's genetic makeup may contribute to obesity, it's not the primary cause. Environmental and behavioural factors have a greater influence - consuming excess calories from high-fat foods and doing little or no daily physical activity over the long run will lead to weight gain. Psychological factors may also foster obesity. Low self-esteem, guilt, emotional stress, or trauma can lead to overeating as a means to cope with the problem.

People who are obese may have the symptoms of the medical conditions:
• breathing disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
• certain types of cancers (e.g., prostate and bowel cancer in men, breast and uterine cancer in women)
• coronary artery (heart) disease
• depression
• diabetes
• gallbladder or liver disease
• gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• joint disease (e.g., osteoarthritis)
• stroke.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, breathing problems, and joint pain (in the knees or lower back) are common. The more obese a person is, the more likely they are to have medical problems related to obesity.

Aside from the medical complications, obesity is also linked to psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, discrimination, difficulty finding employment, and reduced quality of life.


The Chief Public Health Officer's Report on The State of Public Health in Canada 2010, Public Health Agency of Canada

Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2010,

CMHC: Housing for Older Canadians — The Definitive Guide to the Over-55 Market, Volume 1: Understanding the Market - What are the Trends in Seniors’ Lifestyles, Health, and Mobility?

Canadian Council, Social Development’s Stats & Facts: Health of Canadians

Chronic Illness in Canada: Impact and Intervention (2012)Marnie Kramer-Kile, ‎Joseph OsujiEmployment and Social Development Canada, Indicators of Well-being in Canada – Health

Government of Canada - Action for Seniors

Turcotte, M. and G. Schellenberg (2006), A Portrait of Seniors in Canada, p. 54 – 55, Statistics Canada

Tjepkema, M. (2005). Measured Obesity. Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight. (Ottawa: Statistics Canada).

Statistics Canada. (2009-06-24). CANSIM Table 105-0507 Measured adult body mass index (BMI), by age group and sex, household population aged 18 and over excluding pregnant females, Canada (excluding territories), occasional (number unless otherwise noted)

The body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of weight-to- height calculated as BMI = weight (kg)/height (m2).There are six categories of BMI ranges in the weight classification system, each of which has a predetermined level of associated health risk:



BMI Category

Level of Health Risk



< 18.5

Increased risk

Normal weight


Least risk



Increased risk




Obese Class I


High risk

Obese Class II


Very high risk

Obese Class III


Extremely high risk

Health Canada. (2003). Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults.

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