Obesity levels in over 50s as bad as in United States
Published 18/07/2014 | 02:30
AN OVERWHELMING number of over-50s in Ireland are now overweight or obese, putting huge strain on their health, an alarming new study has revealed.
The problem is becoming so serious that obesity levels among Irish men in this age group are on par with levels in the United States, traditionally seen as one of the fattest nations in the world.
Four out of five over-50s in Ireland are now overweight or obese, according to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) led by Trinity College Dublin, which today warns that growing numbers of this generation are on a silent road to debilitating and potentially fatal diseases.
It found that just one-fifth of men and women in the age group now have a normal waistline or an acceptable measurement of body fat to height and weight (BMI).
The rest have bulging waistlines, which are linked to a range of illnesses including cardiovascular diseases such as angina, heart failure and heart attack – which come at huge human and financial cost.
Dr Siobhan Leahy, Tilda research fellow, said the study found worryingly high levels of obesity.
"While this age group is already more likely to be affected by age-related illness, frailty and cardiovascular disease, these conditions are exacerbated by the presence of obesity and significantly higher levels of disease and disability are evident in obese individuals," she said. "Our study highlights the combined impact of the obesity crisis and a rapidly ageing population on health and health service demand."
She pointed out that obese people visit their GP more often, take more medications, and a higher proportion report using five or more medications.
The experts measured both the waistlines of over-50s as well as the ratio of body fat to weight and height (BMI), the most common method of defining obesity.
This was amid concerns the standard obesity rate of plus 30kg/m2 BMI does not reflect how bodies change with age.
Waistlines were checked to identify excess fat, with "normal" measurements classed as below 80cm or 32 inches in women and below 94cm or 35 inches in men.