Underweight Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Healthy
Much has been written about overweight and obesity and the
countless weight-loss programs and advice to help combat these problems. But
what if you’re just the opposite — too thin? This weight problem may be even
In fact, two 2005 reports reflect how seriously the issue needs to
be taken. The Centers for Disease Control researchers found that extreme
thinness is most strongly associated with death in people over age 70. And a
study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that
underweight (as well as obesity) is associated with excess deaths when compared
with normal-weight populations.
Weight loss can begin naturally. As a person nears the age of 60, the amount
of muscle in the body naturally drops, according to an article in www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/18/129.cfm.
By age 70, a typical woman has lost about 11 pounds of muscle while an average
man has lost about 26 pounds of it. But if you are 15 percent or more below your
ideal weight—or if you have lost 5 percent of your body weight in a month
without trying—you need to see your doctor.
Weight loss can happen very quickly in older people, so it’s a good idea to
keep track of weight changes. A clue that a person is underweight is the
appearance of pressure sores on the body caused by too little flesh to cushion
bones against the bed or chair. Another way to determine if a person is at or
close to an acceptable weight is by using this formula, according to www.healthinaging.org/public_education/eldercare/15_p.xml?mode=print:
Women: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet, and 5 pounds for every 1 inch over 5
Men: 106 pounds for the first 5 feet and 6 pounds for every 1 inch over
Being underweight can be a sign of a number of serious problems including
cancer, heart failure, dementia, malnutrition, and depression. Weight loss
itself can trigger a downward spiral of complications: osteoporosis, liver
problems, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, slow wound healing,
arthritis, anemia, and a greater risk of developing pressure ulcers (bed sores).
It may also impair your ability to think clearly and can affect your balance,
leading to falls.