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Obesity May Play A Role In Falls In Older Adults: Some Contradictory Findings Revealed
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Obesity May Play A Role In Falls In Older Adults: Some Contradictory Findings Revealed

Researchers, looking at the correlation between obesity and fall risk in older adults have discovered some very contradictory findings. Christine L. Himes, the lead researcher for the two year study, reveals that while people who were obese were at an increased risk of falling in the first place, it is the people who are only moderately obese that stand the highest risk of injury and slowed recovery from those injuries while more severely obese people may have had some protection from such injuries.

Falls, usually a major concern for much thinner, older adults, are also a risk for those who are overweight as well. Himes and her team discovered that fall risk started increasing for overweight elderly adults, with the risk factor rising in direct correlation to their body weight. Even with other factors, such as general health considered, it was found that the elderly who were moderately obese were just over ten percent more likely to have had a fall than their normal weight peers while those who qualified as severely obese were as much as fifty percent more likely to fall. Himes believes that obesity may throw the elderly person's sense of balance off and may slow down their reaction time, keeping them from regaining their balance when they start to fall.

The study, published in the Journal of Geriatric Studies, followed just over ten thousand people, all sixty five years old or older for two years. In that group of people, over 9600 falls were recorded with over 3000 of those considered to be serious. Researchers defined "serious" injuries as those that required some level of medical intervention. Over twenty percent of those people were rated as obese.

Ironically, while obesity increased the risk of falling in the first place, severe obesity, defined as a body mass index of forty or higher, seemed to afford some level of protection from injuries during that fall. Once weight reached those levels, the person was one third less likely to be seriously injured in the fall, possibly because they are somewhat cushioned in the fall by their own weight.

But, elderly people who were obese who did get injured during their fall were less likely to recover from that fall than those who were at a more normal weight. That risk was also greatly increased when other health factors were included. Obesity increases the risk of certain health conditions, especially in the elderly including heart disease, some cancers and diabetes.


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