Obesity, Disability Linked in Elders
Obese Older Adults Develop More Disabilities, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Obesity and Disability Linked continued...
They also evaluated each participant's limitations in activities of daily
living and classified them as limited if they had much difficulty or couldn't
perform any of three tasks: getting in and out of bed, dressing themselves, and
"At time point 1, obese older people were only 50% more likely than
normal-weight people to be functionally impaired," says Alley. "At time
point 2, they were 98% more likely to be functionally impaired than
"The risk of functional impairment among obese elderly increased 24%
over time," she tells WebMD.
During the first survey, the risk of having a limitation in daily living
activities wasn't significantly different between obese and normal-weight
participants. But by the second survey, the risk of having such difficulty was
twice as great for obese people.
The increases are concerning for a couple of reasons, Alley says.
"One is, it means obese people are experiencing more potentially
preventable impairments," she tells WebMD. "Second is that it means in
the future, if this trend continues, increasing obesity rates are likely to
slow health improvements in the elderly," such as better cardiovascular
health due to better treatment.
"The change over time [in increased disability] is what is really
surprising," Alley says.
The more obese, the higher the disability risk, the researchers also found.
They classified the obese people in three segments:
- Those with a body mass index of BMI of 30 to 34.9
- Those with a BMI of 35 to 39.9
- Those with a BMI of 40 and above
A 5-foot 8-inch person who weighs 164 has a BMI of 24.9 (the top of the
healthy range). A person the same height who weighs 197 has a BMI of 30; one
who weights 263 has a BMI of 40.
More Obese People Becoming Disabled
"We've seen evidence for a while that obesity relates to
disability," says Edward W. Gregg, PhD, an epidemiologist at the CDC's
Division of Diabetes Translation, who co-authored an editorial to accompany the
study. What the new study shows, however, is that more obese people are
disabled than in the past.