While many people spend their lives trying to manage their weight gain, older adults are a special population. For this age group, managing weight loss is a more common issue. Weight loss at any age is a problem that isn’t unique to gender. Men and women both experience unintentional weight loss as they age. Controlling that weight loss is important for your overall health and wellness especially as we age.
Common Causes of Weight Loss
While each person is certainly unique, there are typical causes of unintentional weight loss. If you have been losing weight and are not dieting purposefully, a medical evaluation is important. There are a variety of medical conditions that can cause weight loss in any person. They include:
- GI Issues
- Thyroid Issues
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Respiratory Disorders
- Problems with the Central Nervous System
While these can all be causes of weight loss, you may also experience a drop in weight without a medical condition being diagnosed. These are considered to be unknown causes of weight loss and occur in between 10 and 36 percent of cases.
Why Unintentional Weight Loss Is Worrisome
Weight loss in people of any age is a concern when it is not intentional. There is a difference between someone who is dieting and exercising and making an attempt to lose weight and one who has made no changes in their lifestyle and is losing weight despite that.
Both weight loss and malnutrition should be evaluated in older adults. When a older adult is malnutritioned, or experiencing weight loss, they:
- May have an undiagnosed health issue that can be treated.
- Become weaker and more vulnerable to injury.
- May need more support in their daily lives.
Keeping Track of Weight Loss
Tracking your weight loss is not much different than you would track it at any other time in your life. It is recommended that weight be monitored and checked monthly.
Step on the scale and record your weight on a chart. Keeping a chart or running record will give you something to take to the doctor. You can also purchase a scale that connects to an app via Wi-Fi. These apps keep a record of weight that can be accessed from anywhere.
Once you begin tracking weight, a steady downward trend should alert you to a potential problem. In general, when a person loses 5 percent of their overall body weight over the course of three to six months, there is cause for concern. This is, of course, if the weight loss is unintentional.
Weight loss isn’t the only worry for aging adults. Malnutrition is a problem as well. Other things to keep an eye on are a lack of appetite and a decrease in mobility or general strength. These things can signal malnutrition and are a reason for a doctor’s appointment. Malnutrition can be caused by medical conditions, but also when you experience:
- Painful chewing or swallowing
- Some type of worry or anxiety about food
- Forgetting to eat
- Food that no longer tastes good
- Difficulty in affording groceries
- Difficulty leaving the home to shop for groceries
During an evaluation of a older patient who is experiencing weight loss, a doctor will ask several questions, if they have one. A doctor may want to know about the person’s appetite and whether or not they are interested in food. The doctor may ask if there are any toileting issues, difficulty leaving the home or a change in income or financial status that makes it difficult to afford food.
Once a doctor interviews a patient, they will perform a physical. This is done to either diagnose or rule out conditions that may be contributing to weight loss.
Treating Unintentional Weight Loss At Home
There are several things you can do if you notice you’re losing weight without trying to do so. If there are social factors contributing to the weight loss, it may be good to have someone else do the grocery shopping on your behalf. If the issue is one of finances, ensure that you are receiving the benefits you are entitled to, and don’t be afraid to ask loved ones for assistance.
Medical conditions that are diagnosed can be controlled properly. This may mean creating a schedule for purchasing and taking prescription medications. It could also mean joining an exercise group to maintain proper muscle mass. You may also want to include more protein and calories in general in your diet, with the approval of a medical provider.
If you are experiencing unintended weight loss, one of the best ways to combat it is to learn more about our independent living community in Decatur, call us today.