Obesity and aging

Obesity is a major challenge to healthy aging and improved life expectancy. With the population in old age increasing for most countries due to better health approaches, the need to address the increasing cases of obesity in adults that could eliminate these benefits arises. Obesity cases have become widespread with increasing sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits of the population (Byles, 2009). Though obesity is a global problem, the high rates found in established market economies affect the sustainability of gains made in aging and life expectancy in these countries (Byles, 2009). Studies have for instance established obese cases in these countries to account for as high as 19% of the male adult population and 22% of the female adult population with overweight cases being 42% and 29% respectively (Kelly et al., 2008, cited in Byles, 2009, p.413). Although genetic factors could be the reason for an individual’s obese status, most of the cases observed in modern day arise out of environmental factors that are aggravated by genetic susceptibility (Dubnov, Brzezinski & Berry, 2003). The increased intake of high fat diets with decreased physical activity to expend excess energy has for instance contributed to the high cases of obesity observed globally today (Dubnov et al., 2003).

In the United States, obesity is one of the indicators of older adult health accounted for in The National Report Card on Health Aging (CDC & Merck Company Foundation, 2007). Although the country has met its targets in four of the 11 factors considered in the Health People 2010 postulates, obesity is among the factors that remain inadequately addressed (CDC & Merck Company Foundation, 2007). With some studies suggesting the prevalence of obesity cases in elderly population could increase globally (Byles, 2009), the effect of such a scenario on the U.S healthcare system is far much aggravated due to various factors. First, the cost of providing healthcare for older Americans is far much higher than that for individuals below 65 years of age (CDC & Merck Company Foundation, 2007). With projections showing the proportion of the elderly to increase (UN, 2009), the nation’s healthcare spending could become unmanageable if conditions affecting the health of the elderly are not adequately dealt with. Secondly, obesity is associated with various adverse health outcomes that lead to morbidity and mortality in addition to increasing difficulties in the performance of daily activities such as climbing stairs, bending and vacuuming (Dubnov et al., 2003). With these effects of obesity, failure to address increasing cases could permanently reverse the gains of modern medical advances in increasing the life expectancy of the population.

This paper evaluates the effectiveness of physical activity in preventing and treating obesity in old age. The paper employs data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for the year 2005 with the data derived from the Web Enabled Analysis Tool – WEAT (CDC, 2005). First, the paper makes a literature review identifying various aspects related to obesity and aging such as incidence, effects of obesity on health outcomes, and approaches towards the reduction of obesity cases in adults. The paper then presents the methodology for the study, the results and discussions and finally the conclusions with limitations and implications for further research. Go to part 2 here.

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