By John Salak –
Those looking to hit the magic ages of 90, 95 or even 100 may want to keep their eyes on the prize and also their bathroom scales. This is especially true for mature women 60 and older.
But attaining extended longevity isn’t simply a matter of not adding pounds with age, it also helps to not lose too much weight either, according to the University of California San Diego. The university, in fact, reports that older women who maintain a stable weight were 1.2 to 2 times more likely to achieve longevity compared to those who experience a weight loss of 5 percent or more.
UC San Diego researchers arrived at their conclusions after investigating weight changes later in life in association with exceptional longevity among 54,437 women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a prospective study investigating causes of chronic diseases among postmenopausal women. During the follow-up period, 30,647, or 56 percent of the participants, survived to at least the age of 90.
The data showed that women who lost at least 5 percent of weight were less likely to achieve longevity compared to those who achieved stable weight. For example, women who unintentionally lost weight were 51 percent less likely to survive to the age of 90. However, gaining 5 percent or more weight, compared to stable weight, was not associated with exceptional longevity.
“It is very common for older women in the United States to experience overweight or obesity with a body mass index range of 25 to 35. Our findings support stable weight as a goal for longevity in older women,” reported first author Aladdin H. Shadyab, Ph.D., an associate professor at the university.
Weight changes may also signal other health issues, which can put these women at risk.
“If aging women find themselves losing weight when they are not trying to lose weight, this could be a warning sign of ill health and a predictor of decreased longevity,” Shadyab added.
The university’s findings suggest that general recommendations for weight loss in older women may not help them live longer or healthier lives. Yet the authors were quick to stress that women should heed medical advice if moderate weight loss is recommended to improve their health or quality of life.
The UC San Diego data expands on the growing research linking the relationship between weight change and mortality. Many studies have underscored how excessive weight gain for men and women increases both the risk of various diseases and ultimately mortality.
The University of Colorado, Boulder, for example, reported earlier this year that excess weight or obesity boosts the risk of death by anywhere from 22 percent to 91 percent—significantly more than previously believed.
The research out of San Diego obviously takes a different view by focusing on weight stability and women.