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Keep fat off to stay healthy in older years

The adage 'To lengthen your life, shorten your meals' weighs on the minds of many who are battling the bulge. And medical experts say losing weight and keeping it off is a must if you want to improve and maintain your well-being. Now a new study, published in the British Medic...

The adage 'To lengthen your life, shorten your meals' weighs on the minds of many who are battling the bulge. And medical experts say losing weight and keeping it off is a must if you want to improve and maintain your well-being. Now a new study, published in the British Medical Journal, advises that women who gain weight as they get older could cut their chances of enjoying healthy lives by up to 80%. The researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK and Harvard School of Public Health in the US found that middle-aged women who have a high body mass index (BMI, in which a person's weight is divided by their height squared) are at higher risk of suffering from major chronic diseases and poor quality of life compared to their thinner peers. Basically, for every one kilogram (kg) gained in weight since the age of 18, women essentially reduce their chances of enjoying good health in their old age by 5%. The team also discovered that women who carried extra pounds when they were 18 and failed to stop their waistbands from expanding were most at risk for developing a major chronic disease, such as coronary heart disease and cancer. Their data show that women with a BMI higher than 25 were 79% more likely to develop a chronic disease as they aged compared to women with a BMI of between 18.5 and 22.9. This index is commonly used to compare weight and height, and is used to define a person as obese when their BMI is greater than 30 and overweight when their BMI is between 25 and 30. In order to carry out their research, the team used the Nurses' Health Study which collected data from over 120,000 female registered nurses living in 11 US states since 1976. Follow-up questionnaires were given every two years to update the subjects' information on disease incidence and lifestyle factors. Information on the occurrence of chronic disease, cognitive and physical functions, and mental health at older ages was provided by 17,065 women who survived until at least the age of 70. These women were healthy and free from major chronic diseases at middle age. Professor Oscar Franco of Warwick Medical School pointed out that the study participants who had reached the age of 70 and were living healthy lives reported no problems with respect to cognitive and physical function. These women are examples of 'successful ageing', said the professor of Public Health at Warwick. 'In summary, this study provides new evidence that adiposity [carrying excess body fat] at mid-life is a strong risk factor predicting a worse probability of successful survival among older women,' Professor Franco said. 'In addition, our data suggest that maintenance of healthy weight throughout adulthood may be vital to optimal overall health at older ages. Given that more and more people are surviving to older ages and, at the same time, gaining weight, our results may be particularly important with respect to clinical or public health interventions.'

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United Kingdom, United States

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