An international team of researchers led by Monash University in Australia examined the links between changes in body weight and waist circumference with death risks.
The results were published in JAMA Network Open.
The study used data from a past study involving 16,703 Australian participants aged 70 and above.
The researchers focused on weight recordings, waist circumference measurements, and mortality information over time.
The cohort consisted of 7,510 men and 9,193 women. All the individuals were without evident cardiovascular disease, dementia, physical disability, or life-limiting chronic illnesses.
The researchers found that weight loss is a big indicator of an increased risk of death.
Both body weight and waist circumference changes were categorized as change within 5% (stable), decrease by 5% to 10%, decrease by more than 10%, increase by 5% to 10%, and increase by more than 10%.
Using men with stable weight as a control, men with a 5% to 10% weight loss had a 33% higher risk of all-cause death, and those with more than a 10% decrease in body weight had a 289% higher risk.
Compared to women with stable weight, women with a 5% to 10% weight loss had a 26% higher risk of all-cause mortality, and those with more than a 10% decrease in body weight had a 114% higher risk.
A more than 10% decrease in waist circumference was associated with a 2.14-fold higher risk of all-cause mortality for men and a 34% higher risk of all-cause mortality for women.
The study found that weight loss was primarily associated with reduced appetite, leading to reduced food intake.
Appetite is a complex process governed by both the central nervous system and various circulating hormones, any of which might be disrupted ahead of more pronounced disease presentation.
The researchers suggest that doctors and their patients should be aware of the strong association between death and weight loss in older adults.
It is likely that weight loss is an early indicator of the presence of various life-shortening diseases, and therefore it is important to monitor changes in weight and waist circumference over time.
How to reduce death risk in older people
Here are some ways to help reduce death risk in older people:
Encourage regular exercise: Physical activity can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
It also helps to maintain muscle mass and bone density, which can decrease with age. Encourage older people to engage in regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or gardening.
Encourage a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Encourage regular health check-ups: Encourage older people to visit their healthcare provider for regular check-ups, and to discuss any health concerns or symptoms they may be experiencing.
Encourage social connections: Social isolation and loneliness can have a negative impact on health and well-being, particularly in older people.
Encourage older people to maintain social connections through activities such as volunteering, joining a community group, or attending social events.
Encourage good sleep habits: Adequate sleep is important for overall health and well-being, particularly in older people.
Encourage older people to establish good sleep habits, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and creating a relaxing sleep environment.
Manage chronic health conditions: Chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, can increase the risk of mortality in older people.
Encourage older people to manage these conditions through regular medical care, medication management, and healthy lifestyle habits.
If you care about health, please read studies that whole grain foods could help increase longevity, and vitamin D supplements strongly reduce cancer death.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about natural coconut sugar that could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness, and an anti-inflammatory diet could help prevent fatty liver disease.
The study was conducted by Sultana Monira Hussain et al and published in JAMA Network Open.
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