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January is Healthy Weight Awareness Month

The celebration of each New Year brings with it the resolutions that many Americans make. Losing weight is always one of the most popular resolutions, so it is fitting that January is Healthy Weight Awareness Month. The purpose of this month-long campaign is to educate people about the various risks associated with obesity and to equip them with the tools they need to improve their health. The risks are especially high for those age 55+.

Sizable Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans who are overweight or obese(External Link) is at a crisis level. CDC data suggests that 70% of adults age 20 and over fall into that category. Between 2009 and 2010, according to the CDC, 38% of Americans age 65(External Link) and older were considered obese, up from 22% in 1988-1994. This results from a combination of factors, including more sedentary lifestyles and larger food portions in recent decades.

New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH)(External Link) studies show that 60% of New York adults are overweight or obese, a significant increase from the 42% in 1997. Unfortunately the statistics are even worse when focusing on the state's older population. The numbers vary from county to county according to data from NYSDOH's Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Study.(External Link) The NYSDOH also reports that statewide(External Link), 70% of New Yorkers age 55-64 and 64% of those ages 65 and older are overweight or obese.

The Health and Financial Costs
Data from the CDC and the NYSDOH points to obesity as a leading cause of preventable death(External Link), second only to tobacco. It is associated with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and respiratory problems. Thus, a rise in the overweight and obese population also means a rise in these chronic health problems.

Not only can these health problems hinder a person's quality of life, but they are very expensive as well. Each year the estimated medical costs of obesity(External Link) in this country are close to $150 billion. The average cost for a person who is obese is $1,429 higher(External Link) than for a person at a healthy weight. In New York State, the annual cost is more than $7.6 billion. A report from NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli(External Link) finds New York ranks second among US states in adult obesity-related medical expenditures with 81% of them financed by Medicare and Medicaid.

Older Americans already rely on more health care per capita(External Link) and incur greater costs than any other age group. Eight in 10 older adults have at least one chronic disease. Those with five or more conditions incur over $24,000 in health costs compared to just over $5,500 for those with no chronic conditions. Therefore, this segment of the population can particularly reap the financial and health benefits that come with maintaining a healthy weight.

Reaching Your Healthy Weight
Achieving a healthy weight requires proper nutrition and regular exercise, both of which are beneficial for older persons. Eating right boosts energy and metabolism levels, helps with proper brain functioning, and improves your mood. Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well Being(External Link), a report prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, shows data supporting that physical activity(External Link) helps maintain independence by improving mobility, reducing risk of certain chronic diseases, and improving balance which decreases risk of falls.

For useful eating and exercise tips to help you reach your health goals, check out the Helpguide.org(External Link) website and the National Institute on Aging(External Link) guidebook.

Did You Know?
NYSOFA has many programs that focus on chronic diseases, health, nutrition, and physical activity. Check out the New York State Office for the Aging's Programs & Services web page to find programs that could benefit you.

Feel free to contact your local Office for the Aging for more information.