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Obesity may constrain physical function, activities among older adults

16 May 2019

Due to the increasing global prevalence of obesity, older adults may live more years of their remaining life with limited physical function and activities in daily living (ADLs), according to a study, adding that older adults, their families and healthcare systems should be aware of this problem.

Life expectancy (LE) at age 60 years was comparable for individuals with normal weight, preobesity and obesity, but those with obesity vs normal weight had 6.3 (95 percent CI, 3.4–9.2) more years with limitation in physical function and 4.9 (3.4–6.5) less years without limitation in physical function. Individuals with preobesity vs normal weight also had 3.7 (1.9–5.3) more years with limitation in physical function.

There was a similar pattern for years of life with and without limitation in ADLs across the categories of body mass index (BMI). Stratified analyses revealed similar association of BMI with years of life with and without limitation in physical function and in ADLs across gender, ethnicity and educational status.

This study used longitudinal data on 3,452 older (≥60 years) Singaporeans to examine the relationship between BMI and years of remaining life overall with and without limitation in physical function and in ADLs. Difficulty in any task involving upper or lower extremities was deemed as limitation in physical function, and health-related difficulty in any basic or instrumental ADL as limitation in ADLs. Multistate life tables, including BMI as a time-varying covariate, was used.

“While older adults with preobesity and class I obesity have similar or lower mortality risk vs those with normal weight, a heavier BMI may not translate into more healthy life years,” the authors said.

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