The weird way weight affects women’s longevity after 60

I turned 67 this summer. I’m planning on living to be 100. Maybe more.

I figure I’ve got the genes for it. My mom passed away a year ago, two months short of her 101st birthday.

I eat well, walk (almost) every day and don’t smoke.

But I weigh 150 pounds, compared with 130 pounds five years ago. I’ve gone up two pants sizes.

One would think that getting that extra 20 pounds off would be good for my health.

Not necessarily, according to new research … at least, not if I want to cross that 100-year mark.

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Think twice about weight loss after 60

Women who maintain a steady body weight after the age of 60 are more likely to reach the age of 90, 95, or 100, known as exceptional longevity, according to a study led by the University of California San Diego.

The study included 54,437 women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a prospective study that looked at causes of chronic diseases among postmenopausal women.

During the follow-up period, 30,647 (56%) of the participants survived to the age of 90 or beyond.

The study found that maintaining a stable weight was tied to longevity, whereas:

  • Women who lost at least five percent of their body weight were less likely to achieve longevity than those who maintained a stable weight.
  • On the other hand, gaining five percent of body weight was not associated with exceptional longevity.

Further, subjects of the study who unintentionally lost weight were 51 percent less likely to survive to the age of 90.

“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,” says first study author Dr. Aladdin H. Shadyab, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego.

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Focus on weight maintenance after 60

Dr. Shadyab also says, “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.”

In other words, I shouldn’t be running out and finding ways to drop that extra 20 pounds. That could set me up for what we used to call “yo-yo weight loss,” where we lose it, gain it back and try to lose it again. Past research has found that can lead to an increased risk of heart problems.

Instead, if I want to live to be as old as my mom was, I should hold steady at the weight I’m at, and stay healthy in other respects.

Women should also exercise regularly for the sake of fitness, not necessarily weight loss — and to avoid the number one killer of women, heart disease.

Good exercise capacity and healthy heart function are the two things that will grant a woman a longer healthspan.

Now there was one caveat to this research…

Dr. Shadyab and the other study authors caution that if your doctor advises a moderate amount of weight loss to improve other areas of your health and/or your quality of life, don’t ignore that advice.

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Maintaining stable weight increases longevity among older women — Eureka Alert

Association of Later-Life Weight Changes With Survival to Ages 90, 95, and 100: The Women’s Health Initiative — The Journals of Gerontology 

Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know — Web MD

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.