Overweight and Over Sixty

Why taking the pounds off can be more difficult but well worth it.

Extra weight can make diabetes control more difficult. But as you get older, losing weight safely becomes more of a challenge. Even so, it's worth doing. If you are overweight, losing between 5 and 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your blood sugar numbers and bring your blood pressure down.

Over60Lose Weight, Lose Strength?

Our bodies change as we age. We lose muscle mass and gain body fat. We also lose some of our bone mass, and our metabolism slows down. We need fewer calories than we used to, and when we gain weight it's harder to lose again.

Dieting for weight loss can reduce bone mass even further in some older people. For that reason, sometimes doctors don't recommend it for older adults. They worry that you'll lose so much muscle and bone that you'll become frail.

Fortunately, recent studies have shown that combing diet and exercise can help older adults lose weight while increasing their strength and balance.

If you have joint problems such as arthritis, losing weight can often help improve pain and mobility. And if you do safe exercises — water aerobics, for example — while you are losing weight, your weight loss will happen faster and you'll gain strength at the same time.

Dieting and Bone Loss

Older women who lose weight by dieting may lose bone mass in their hips. When considering a weight loss plan, the risk of a fracture needs to be balanced against the benefits of weight loss for your diabetes and other health problems. Protein, calcium, and vitamin D in your diet can help keep muscles and bones strong. Before you start dieting, talk to your doctor about your bone density.

Lose Weight Safely

If you decide to lose weight by changing your diet, talk to your doctor first. Because your metabolism is slower, your need for calories is lower. Older adults need to get enough protein, fiber, potassium, and calcium. You also need to make sure you're getting enough vitamins D, E, K, and B12. To get the nutrition you need, you should use your daily calories on foods that are high in nutrition and low in carbohydrates. You should also talk to your doctor about the need for supplements.

Reviewed by Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN.

Last Modified Date: May 08, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.
  1. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Intentional and unintentional weight loss increase bone loss and hip fracture risk in older women, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/465927. (Accessed 05/08/13.)
  2. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Protection of bone mass by estrogens and raloxifene during exercise- induced weight loss, http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/90/1/52.full.pdf. (PDF) (Accessed 05/08/13.)
  3. JAMA. Caregiving as a risk for mortality: the caregiver health effects study, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=192209. (Accessed 05/08/13.)
  4. The New England Journal of Medicine Weight loss, exercise, or both and physical function in obese older adults, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1008234#t=article. (Accessed 05/08/13.)
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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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