Obesity and the Over 60’s

As we get older we face the challenge of maintaining our ageing bodies whilst adjusting to the fact that as our bodies change, we may have to deal with certain limitations. Like it or not, in our sixties our bodies start to lose their ‘bounce’. Our metabolisms slow down just at the time when we may start to feel less inclined to exercise.

On my 62nd birthday I felt like I was walking around with a big sign on my back saying, “hey, virus, come and get me!” I had coronary heart disease, for which I had been fitted with eleven stents, and I’d suffered a bad bout of double pneumonia in my fifties that left my lungs damaged and susceptible to infection. I was also drinking too much and not taking care of myself.

With age comes a whole raft of changes to our bodies that we need to deal with if we are to stay healthy. Your skin becomes less elastic and you may find yourself more easily prone to bruising. This is perfectly natural as the natural oils and fatty tissue that lies just beneath the skin’s surface decrease. Your skin may feel drier as a result.

You may find that your eyesight is not what it was, or that you don’t hear as well as you used to. On the other hand, you may find your memory is not as acute as it once was.

Your bones usually shrink slightly with age, making them less dense and therefore more susceptible to fracture. Your muscles will start to lose strength — gradually — and your general strength and endurance may diminish.

As we get older we are prone to heart disease, and may have to have stents fitted — I have eleven! — or we may need to undergo bypass surgery.

The Mayo clinic tells us: “The most common change in the cardiovascular system is stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. The heart muscles change to adjust to the increased workload. Your heart rate at rest will stay about the same, but it won’t increase during activities as much as it used to. These changes increase the risk of high blood pressure (hyper-tension) and other
cardiovascular problems.”

Well, that’s the bad news. The good news is that 46 Gone is not only a weight management system, it’s a way of managing your lifestyle that will help you become healthier and, as a result, I believe, happier as you contemplate your old age.

First let’s look at some everyday strategies you can use to combat the effects of ageing.

This is central to the 46 Gone programme. Fast food, junk food, processed foods — gone! High-sugar, high-fat foods, fizzy drinks and alcohol — gone! Instead, we recommend you choose vegetables, fruits, pulses, high-fibre foods and lean sources of protein, such as chicken and fish.

What’s the largest organ in the human body? Lungs? Heart?
No — it’s the skin! The skin is an organ, and it’s constantly in a state of flux, re-building itself every day as you shed dead skin and grow new skin cells.

So, it makes sense to look after it in the way we try to take care of our hearts and lungs.

Use sun protection when you’re going outdoors for any length of time, and wear protective clothing.

When bathing, use natural soaps with no added scents or chemicals, and moisturise your skin after drying it. This especially applies to men, who can be reluctant to use a moisturiser. Remember, it’s not about how you look, it’s about preserving the quality of the skin — its elasticity and its resilience.

With age our senses suffer: eyes and ears are not as acute as they were, and the brain’s capacity diminishes.

We need to keep on top of these things, so get regular eye and ear check-ups and follow professional advice. Wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat when out in the sun, and don’t be afraid to look after your ears by wearing earplugs if you’re around loud noises such as heavy machinery.

Keep your mind active with reading, word games, puzzles and quizzes.

Stay as sociable as you can — it’s good for your health. Spend time with family or friends, over perhaps volunteer or take up a new hobby.

As we age our relationship with medicine changes. Western medicine’s answer to most ailments associated with the ageing process seems to consist of prescribing an ever- more exotic array of pills. At one stage I was taking ten pills a day to counter my heart and lung problems, but since getting serious about my health and losing weight, I’ve reduced that to four. My cardiologist says that mine is among the best outcomes he’s seen in any patient.

The British Heart Foundation tells us that people who have a healthy, balanced diet shouldn’t need supplements. The NHS website also has some useful information of vitamins and minerals. Age UK has a very helpful article on this, and I’ve provided links to all three websites at the back of this book. The consensus seems to be that a healthy diet should give you all the vitamins and minerals you need. The main exception seems to be vitamin D, which you may need to augment in winter months, when there’s less sunlight.

You can’t reverse the effects of ageing, but you can make sure you’re in the best possible shape to deal with them, and that’s what the book ’46 Gone for the Over 60’s’ is all about.

Getting older shouldn’t be a worry as long as we take a few simple steps to maintain our health. One of the key components in this is to achieve — and maintain — a healthy weight. And as a 46 Gone member, you’ll have access to all the tools you’ll need to help you shed those extra pounds and keep them off.