Being Overweight a Factor Associated with Disability
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that the obesity epidemic in children is growing on a daily basis. Approximately 24 million children ages 2 to 19 years are overweight or obese, with 33 percent being boys and 30 percent being girls. Also, this epidemic affects those living in low-income households with higher unemployment.
Among Americans age 20 and older, 155 million are overweight or obese, with a BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher. Of these, approximately 80 million are men and 75 million are women.
Obesity also contributes to health problems among older adults. A recent study found that several factors are associated with increased disability in the older population, including physical inactivity, being overweight, poor diet, and smoking. An unhealthy lifestyle is associated with the likelihood of developing disability for those who are older than 65 years of age. This risk increases progressively with more unhealthy behaviors.
Disability is defined as dependency or difficulty in carrying out the activities of daily life. The number of disabled people is expected to go up in coming years, so researchers have defined preventive strategies to slow this progression. The risk for obesity, diabetes, and cancer increases with the number of unhealthy behaviors, according to researchers from the U.K. and France. They evaluated study participants who lived in community housing that were older than 65 years of age.
The negative factors were poor diet, alcohol drinking, smoking cigarettes, and a lack of physical activity. The levels of disability assessed were activities of daily living, mobility, and basic life skills. The participants were considered disabled if they could no longer perform at least one of these levels. Identified characteristics that could influence the relationship between disability and unhealthy behaviors were heart disease, depression, a high BMI, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
During the study, the incidence of disability increased with age, with more than 1,200 out of 4,000 participants developing disability (31 percent). Also, participants who became disabled were more likely to be older, be women, and be less educated than those without disability. For those who had low or intermediate physical activity, over 70 percent had an increased risk of disability independent of unhealthy behaviors. As much as 30 percent of the association between disability and unhealthy behaviors was explained by a high BMI or obesity, as well as chronic health conditions, heart disease, and depression.
The researchers concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, characterized by obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and an unhealthy diet is linked to a greater risk for disability. This risk also was increased with the number of unhealthy behaviors, which are potentially modifiable.