Despite the fact that human longevity appears to have a ceiling (the oldest age reliably recorded is 122 years, attained by a French woman named Jeanne Calment), a number of factors can influence our likelihood of living to a mature old age. According to scientists, heredity, environment, resiliency, and sheer fate can all play a role in the equation. Moreover, it appears that weight fluctuations in later life may also play a role.
The authors of a new study published online in the Journal of Gerontology found that women over the age of 60 who maintained a stable body mass index were more likely to experience what they termed exceptional longevity. The authors defined exceptional longevity as attaining the age of 90 or older.
For the objectives of the investigation, weight stability was defined as a deviation from baseline weight of less than 5%.
Assessing the connection between changes in weight and longevity
The multi-institutional study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, investigated how variations in the weight of elderly women affected their chances of living longer.
Participating were 54,437 women enlisted in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The WHITrusted Source is a national, long-term study designed to identify methods to prevent the leading causes of mortality and disability among older women, such as heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis. 56% of the study’s 30,647 female participants reached the age of 90 or older.
The team examined the data to determine whether there were connections between weight changes and the intentionality of those changes and whether women lived to be 90, 95, or 100 years old.
The weight of the women was assessed at the outset of the study, after three years, and after ten years.
If their weight decreased by 5% or more from their initial weight, they were considered to have lost weight. Those with an increase of 5% or more were classified as having weight gain. If there was no change of at least 5% in either direction, their weight was considered stable.
Furthermore,, the women were asked whether their weight loss at year 3 was intentional.
Analysis revealed that maintaining a healthy weight is associated with a longer lifespan.
In addition, elderly women who maintained a stable weight were 1.2 to 2.0 times more likely to live to an advanced age than those who lost 5% or more of their body weight.
Additionally, it appeared to matter whether the weight loss was deliberate. There was a stronger association between unintentional weight loss and a decreased likelihood of living to be 90 or elderly.
However, gaining weight was not associated with extraordinary longevity.
Why stable weight may increase life expectancy
According to Dr. Shara Cohen, Founder and Director of Cancer Care Parcel, multiple mechanisms may be liable for this occurrence.
“Firstly,” she stated, “a stable weight may indicate a well-balanced and consistent diet.” Individuals who sustain their weight are more likely to consume a diet rich in essential nutrients and low in excess calories.
Cohen noted that nutritional stability can have a positive influence on metabolic health, thereby reducing the risk of chronic disease and promoting longevity. According to Cohen, a stable weight may indicate that a person leads an active lifestyle.
She explained that regular exercise not only aids in weight management, but also improves cardiovascular health, preserves muscle mass, and supports overall physiological functions. Physical activity can prevent age-related muscle loss and metabolic decline, resulting in a longer, healthier life.
What elderly women can do to keep their weight stable
Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, a Nutritionist and Ace Certified Trainer, advised elderly women who want to maintain a stable weight to live a longer and healthier life to consider the following strategies:
- Eat a well-rounded diet. Sabat recommends consuming a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole cereals, and healthful fats. She also advised avoiding processed foods, sweetened treats, and beverages high in calories.
- Engage in routine physical activity. Walking, swimming, and cycling are excellent cardiovascular exercises, as well as strength training. “Exercise helps maintain muscle mass, metabolism, and overall health,” she said.
- Implement portion control. “Be mindful of portion sizes in order to avoid overeating,” advised Sabat. “Pay close attention to hunger and fullness cues, and avoid eating out of boredom or stress.”
- Control your tension. “Chronic stress can contribute to weight gain or loss due to hormonal changes,” she explained. Utilize relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to effectively manage tension.
- Remain hydrated. Sabat recommends consuming copious amounts of water throughout the day. “Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking,” she explained.
- Get routine checkups. Sabat stated that routine medical examinations can help identify any underlying health issues that may influence weight stability. Promptly addressing these issues can promote overall health.
- Get adequate rest. Sabat stated that it is essential to prioritize adequate restorative sleep, explaining that insufficient sleep can disrupt hormones associated with appetite and metabolism.
- Obtain social support. “Surround yourself with a supportive social network,” Sabat advised. Engaging in healthy behaviors with peers or family can facilitate weight maintenance.