Potential health crisis linked to obesity

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The NHS is under threat of a health crisis as most of those entering old age are overweight. New figures indicate that almost 75% of people between the ages of 45 and 74 in the UK, are overweight or obese.

Young adults are the only age category where a normal body mass index is indicated.
The National Obesity Forum has issued warnings that a huge section of the population will be faced with problems as they enter old age. Obesity or being overweight poses serious health risks, including coronary heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer, such as bowel or breast cancer.

Tam Fry from the forum has stated that the figures indicate a national health crisis is looming. Thinking that obesity only affects the young and middle-aged is a misconception. A clear message should be delivered that everybody should control and watch what they consume. He issued a warning that many of the elderly who are overweight experience problems in that they have health conditions linked to their weight and muscle wastage, which does not allow them to do exercise to improve their health.

According to statistics, about seven out of ten people in the UK, aged 45 and above, are either obese or overweight. The average BMI for those in the 45 to 74 age group is 28.3. Anyone with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight.

According to a geriatrician from Portsmouth and HSCIC lead clinician, Professor Martin Severs, obesity is going to boost short and medium term effects related to heart disease and diabetes. He said that it will also create long term problems as the excess weight that is being carried around will prompt arthritis and shortness of breath. Being overweight brings with it a host of secondary health issues.

Professor Severs was questioned about the impact of overweight or obese older people on society. He stated that there will be fewer older people as people become obese at a younger age which will have an effect on the mortality rate. The second potential problem could be that older people’s life expectancy reaches a plateau and then commences a decline. He stated that a third problem could be that the disability-free life expectancy starts to become shorter, however there is insufficient evidence in this regard.

According to the charity, Age UK, public health measures are focused on younger, not older people. Ruthe Isden, the health influencing programme director at Age UK, said that public health focus has been on children in an attempt to get them while they are young, but for the elderly, it has been a case of being too late to bother.

This should be reconsidered and people should be advised that it is not too late to change to healthier habits.

It is simply a matter of getting older people to do more regular exercise as the population growth in those aged 65 and over is steadily increasing.

Image Credit: Tony Alter

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