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Obesity and the Ability to Carry Out Daily Activities FREE

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The full report is titled “Obesity, Race, and Risk for Death or Functional Decline Among Medicare Beneficiaries. A Cohort Study.” It is in the 17 May 2011 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 154, pages 645-655). The authors are C.C. Wee, K.W. Huskey, L.H. Ngo, A. Fowler-Brown, S.G. Leveille, M.A. Mittlemen, and E.P. McCarthy.

Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(10):I-28. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-154-10-201105170-00001
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Americans are increasingly overweight or obese, and it is generally accepted that obesity leads to premature death. However, some studies suggest that obesity in older adults may not decrease life expectancy. In addition, less is known about the negative health consequences of obesity (besides a shorter lifespan) in elderly persons.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see whether older persons who were considered overweight or obese were more likely to report difficulty performing day-to-day activities that permit people to care for themselves and maintain independence.

Who was studied?

Americans aged 65 years or older who received Medicare benefits.

How was the study done?

More than 20,000 Medicare recipients were surveyed about whether they had difficulty carrying out basic day-to-day activities, such as bathing or showering, dressing, and walking, as well as activities that are required to maintain full independence, such as making meals, doing housework, and shopping. Participants were interviewed 3 times each year for 4 years about their ability to carry out these activities.

What did the researchers find?

Participants who were overweight or obese reported increased difficulty with many sorts of activities, and this difficulty became worse over time. Even participants who were just above the normal weight range reported more difficulty than normal-weight adults. Having a weight above the normal range led to a corresponding increase in reports of difficulties completing day-to-day activities (the more a person weighed, the more difficult it was for that person to do the tasks).

What were the limitations of the study?

Participants reported their difficulties with completing activities but were not actually tested to see whether they could perform these activities. The study was not designed to determine whether losing weight improved participants' ability to complete these activities. Some evidence indicated that obesity was not as significant a factor in the ability of older African Americans to complete daily tasks, but the number of participants was too small to be sure that this result was accurate.

What are the implications of the study?

Older persons should be aware that being overweight or obese may result in loss of ability to carry out normal daily activities. Such persons may want to review their ability to conduct normal activities of daily living with their health care provider.





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