Obese Older Women at Higher Risk for Death, Disease,
Disability Before Age 85
11, 2013 – If you are an older woman, obese and have a large waist size,
your chances are not good for reaching the age of 85 without dying,
developing a major chronic disease or having a mobility disability. This
prognostication comes from a new study published by JAMA Internal
Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.
The number of women ages 85 years and older in the
United States is on the rise with 11.6 million women projected to reach
85 by 2050.
Obesity is also on the rise, and obesity is well
established as a risk factor for diseases that are prevalent in older
women, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers, the
authors write in the study background.
Eileen Rillamas-Sun, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and colleagues examined whether higher
body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in older women
decreased their chances of living to age 85 without major disease or
A healthy weight BMI was 18.5 to less than 25,
overweight was 25 to less than 30, and obese was 30 to greater than 40.
The study included 36,611 women from the Women’s
Health Initiative who were an average 72 years old at baseline. Of the
women, 19 percent were classified as healthy, 14.7 percent had prevalent
disease, 23.2 percent had incident disease, 18.3 percent had a mobility
disability (using crutches, a walker or a wheelchair or a limited
ability to walk) and 24.8 percent died.
The study’s findings indicate underweight and obese
women are more likely to die before the age of 85, while overweight and
obese women had higher risks of incident disease and mobility
disability. A waist circumference (WC) greater than 88 cm (almost 35
inches) also was associated with a higher risk of early death, incident
disease and mobility disability.
Black women who were overweight or who had a WC
greater than 88 cm at baseline, and Hispanic women who were obese at
baseline had higher risks of incident disease compared to white women
who were overweight or who had a WC greater than 88 cm, according to the
“Having a healthy BMI or WC was associated with a
higher likelihood of surviving to older ages without a major disease or
mobility disability,” the study concludes.
“Successful strategies aimed at maintaining healthy
body weight, minimizing abdominal fat accretion, and guiding safe,
intentional weight loss for those who are already obese should be
further investigated and disseminated.”
Editor’s Note: This study was supported by
grants from the National Institutes of Health.
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