Maintaining a healthy weight

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Older adults need to maintain a healthy weight

Many Americans are overweight. Being overweight can increase the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Recent research suggests that people can be a little heavier as they grow older without added risk to health, although just how much heavier is not yet clear.

As people age, they usually need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Older people may become less active, too. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight should be an ongoing part of health care. People who need to lose some weight shouldn’t try to lose weight too fast and should avoid extreme approaches. Quick weight loss plans often deprive the body of important nutrients and usually don’t keep the weight off.

Be physically active

Physical activity can help reduce and control weight by burning up calories and should be part of a healthy lifestyle at any age. Moderate exercise that places weight on bones, such as walking, helps maintain and possibly even increases bone strength in older adults – another good reason to exercise. Scientists looking into the benefits of exercise for older adults agree that appropriate exercise improves overall health at any age. Regular exercise can improve the functioning of the heart and lungs, increase strength and flexibility and contribute to a feeling of well being.

You don’t have to jog or do aerobics to benefit from exercise. Any regular physical activity is good. Regular brisk walking is an easy and enjoyable form of exercise that helps control weight, but you will benefit from any form of gentle exercise, even light gardening. Use common sense to prevent injury when exercising, and check with your doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program or if you haven’t exercised in a while.

Reduce calories, not vitamins and minerals

To lose weight, you need to reduce the amount of calories you eat. But you need to do this without giving up important nutrients. A weight-reduction diet will be difficult to follow if you always feel hungry. Choosing low fat foods allows you to cut calories without sacrificing important vitamins and minerals. For example, one cup of skim milk has about the same amount of calcium as one cup of whole milk, but only traces of fat and half the number of calories. On the other hand, fatty spreads and dressings, sugary foods such as candy or soft drinks and alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and liquors add calories to your diet, but have little or no nutrients. Limiting your intake of fats, sweets and alcoholic beverages will help keep the calories in your diet down, without sacrificing nutrients.

Source: Food Facts for Older Americans, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Updated August 22, 2017 7:09pm