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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Overweight Older People Live Longer

A Few Extra Pounds May Be a Plus in Old Age, Researchers Say

Exercise Lowered Death Risk

Women who were sedentary were twice as likely to die as women who got regular exercise, regardless of BMI.

The effect was seen in men, but to a lesser degree. A sedentary lifestyle was associated with a 28% increase in death among men.

The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“There is a lot we can’t really explain in our findings, and the fact that a sedentary lifestyle seemed to be more risky for women than men is one of them,” Flicker says.

Flicker believes the BMI thresholds for overweight and obese are too restrictive for older people, and he says it may be time for the World Health Organization to change the guidelines to reflect the findings from his and other studies.

Geriatric medicine specialist Thomas Yoshikawa, MD, of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, agrees.

“From a hard science point of view it may be a bit premature, but my own personal belief is this is something we should carefully consider,” he tells WebMD.

Yoshikawa says as many as two dozen observational studies suggest that carrying a few extra pounds is beneficial for people in their 80s and older.

Although extra pounds clearly add to the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes earlier in life, they may actually give older people extra reserves to recover from stresses like surgery or pneumonia, he says.

“I would rather have an elderly patient who is in relatively good health and is close to normal weight gain five or 10 pounds than lose five or 10 pounds,” he says.

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