New Year, New You – Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy WeightNew Year, New You – Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
After the excesses of the festive season, January is traditionally a time when New Year’s resolutions around eating and weight-loss are made (and often broken!).
Our weight, of course, has numerous implications for our health, with being overweight considered to be a risk factor for conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and being underweight also considered dangerous, particularly amongst older people who are at increased risk of malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies and osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Weight and dementia
Research has linked an unhealthy weight with the risk of developing dementia, either through being overweight in midlife or having a lower body weight in later life. Last year, another study published in the online journal BMJ Open analysed the body mass index (BMI) of over 67,000 Koreans aged 60-79 to see if changes in participants BMI could be linked to the future development of dementia.
Researchers calculated individual changes in BMI over a two-year period, then after a two-year gap they monitored which individuals went on to develop dementia over a five-year period. The researchers found that older people whose BMI increased or decreased by more than 10% had a greater risk of developing dementia compared to those with a stable BMI.
Whilst dementia research charities were quick to point out that this study alone doesn’t mean that weight changes cause dementia, it adds to the evidence suggesting maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet is as important as other dementia prevention steps which include not smoking, only drinking within established guidelines, remaining mentally, physically and socially active, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol within recommended parameters and correcting hearing loss.
Achieving a healthy diet and weight
If you’ve over-indulged during the Christmas period, this is the perfect time to re-evaluate your eating habits to benefit your health. One of the best resources to help you work out what your mealtime plate should look like is the Eatwell Guide (PDF) and if you want more in-depth healthy eating advice that’s tailored to older people, Age UK provide information that stresses a healthy diet doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive.
If, perhaps because of medical advice, you’re aiming to follow a weight-loss plan, the NHS offer a free 12 week diet and exercise plan that can help you to meet your goals and change your eating and exercise habits in a way that will be sustainable beyond the New Year resolution period.
The NHS also have information if you’ve been advised to gain weight, perhaps because you’ve had an illness or lost your appetite. Key features of a weight-gain plan include having smaller meals, regular snacks, and more high calorie foods, like full-fat dairy products. However, always check with your GP if you’re underweight since this can be a sign of other underlying health problems.
Many older and disabled people struggle to shop and cook unaided, although they very much want to retain choice, control and independence over these aspects of their life. Our clients often find that their diets are revolutionised by having a live-in carer and that, over time, they manage to achieve and maintain a healthy weight that enables them to look and feel their best.
One of the greatest advantages to private care in your own home is the ability to plan, create and enjoy balanced and delicious homecooked meals with your care worker. Our live-in carers help our clients to choose the foods they enjoy, source recipes to create favourite meals, and can support with a range of eating-related challenges, whether a person is aiming to lose or gain weight or needs to follow a particular diet, for example if they are living with diabetes.
In addition, as part of our dementia care, Parkinson’s care, cancer care and other condition-specific care packages, we offer support with dysphagia (swallowing problems), which can occur in the latter stages of these conditions.