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The Effects of Unplanned Weight Loss on Elderly Health

By Rick Cohen, 9:00 am on

According to Milwaukee elder care professionals, it can be challenging for seniors to maintain a healthy weight for a number of reasons, including chronic illness or cognitive impairment that makes it hard to eat regularly. Sudden or unplanned weight loss is common among seniors, and it’s associated with a number of adverse health consequences, including increased disability and premature death. While weight loss is sometimes ignored or downplayed by seniors, it’s important to take notice and speak with a doctor sooner than later.

The Consequences of Sudden Weight Loss

There are many dangers of unplanned weight loss among seniors, including:

  • Increased mortality rate
  • Greater risk of disability
  • Compromised immune system and increased risk of infection
  • Higher risk of depression
  • Increased rate of complications from disease

Involuntary or unplanned weight loss has been linked to mortality and morbidity in numerous studies. In one study, seniors in nursing homes who lost 10 percent of their body weight had a much higher risk of death in the next six months, regardless of cause of death or diagnosis. A similar study found that elderly people who lost just five percent of their body weight in one month had a four-times higher chance of dying within a year.

Some of the dangers of unplanned weight loss are less obvious than worsening disability. Weight loss can exacerbate mood and cognitive problems and increase the chances that a senior will need acute or long-term care. Involuntary weight loss can affect the body’s metabolism and ability to absorb nutrients, leading to greater calorie loss in stool and urine. Unplanned weight loss has even been linked to an increased risk of malignant tumors, immune disorders, heart failure, and worsening rheumatoid arthritis.

If you notice an elderly loved one losing weight without cause, early intervention is important. Discuss the weight loss with your loved one’s doctor to develop a nutritional plan that may include vitamin and protein supplements or nutrient-rich foods that are easier to eat.

Learn more about senior health and wellness from Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of elderly care, including stroke, Alzheimer’s, and dementia home care in Milwaukee. All of our care services focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, social and mental stimulation, and maintaining a sense of purpose to promote a high quality of life for every client. For more information, please call (262) 782-3383. We look forward to hearing from you.

How Unplanned Weight Loss Affects Senior Health