Can Seniors Partake in Medical Weight Loss Programs?

Obesity is a widespread health crisis that is becoming increasingly common among senior citizens. In the US, about one in four older adults qualifies as obese. As the senior population is expected to swell to almost 90 million by 2050, health specialists fear that this will consequently result in more instances of elder obesity, too.

Since seniors have weaker immune systems, obesity carries a significantly higher risk. Given that up to 95% of seniors aged 60 and over have at least one chronic illness, obesity can worsen these conditions and increase the risk of developing more. These include serious ailments such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart failure. That said, losing weight as an older adult can be complicated. Given their more delicate constitutions, traditional diet and exercise may prove too extreme or ineffective. As such, it’s worth looking into medical weight loss programs, which are considered some of the most popular and effective interventions today.

A primer on medical weight loss

Losing and gaining weight is highly nuanced and goes beyond just what you eat and how much you move. Factors like genetics, stress level, and medical history can greatly influence how your body manages weight. This is why some people gain excess weight easily and struggle to lose weight despite following a balanced diet and workout routine. Consequently, in the last few years, health experts have recommended medical weight loss more often. This refers to a weight loss that is doctor-led and focused on using FDA-approved medications.

Usually, the drugs involved in medical weight loss are used “off-label,” which means they were originally intended for other conditions. Case in point, many doctors prescribe GLP-1 for weight loss, although it’s been used as a medication for Type 2 diabetes since 2005. Since then, though, evidence has emerged that proves its ability to regulate blood sugar can subsequently help with weight loss. This is because GLP-1’s effect on blood sugar can also curb feelings of hunger and increase the metabolism. GLP-1s are more commonly known nowadays under brand names like Wegovy or Ozempic. Another popular prescription that doctors give out is phentermine for medical weight loss. These are manufactured under brands like Qsymia, where it’s combined with topiramate, which is an anti-migraine/seizure drug. Together, these can signal the brain’s neuroreceptors and make patients feel full for longer. In general, these drugs, when paired with a personalized and well-rounded wellness plan, can result in up to 15% of weight loss.

Why some people are wary of medical weight loss for seniors

For starters, these drugs are very powerful, hence why they’re only prescribed to eligible patients with BMIs over 30 or close to it. As such, they aren’t totally risk-free. Although doctors will carefully weigh the likelihood of these happening to a patient, even simpler side effects can harm older adults. For instance, if they experience lightheadedness, it can lead to a serious fall.

Apart from this, most medical weight loss programs can be expensive. Inflation and widespread demand are causing pharmaceutical companies to raise drug prices, with some medical weight loss drugs now over 4% pricier. For seniors who may be living off a pension, this added expense may well be over budget unless their insurance covers it or they join an accessible membership platform.

How medical weight loss can ultimately help older adults

Despite these two points, seniors can definitely partake in medical weight loss programs that can actually do a world of good for them. Firstly, this approach is carefully supervised by doctors at every point. As a result, it’s much more tailored to a person’s needs, and any concerns can be quickly addressed. Unlike generic weight loss plans that are only based on limited datasets, medical weight loss programs are designed around a person’s unique circumstances. If anything, this may even help older adults attain sustainable results that inspire them to follow other healthy anti-aging lifestyle habits, such as eating a balanced diet, working out more, and letting go of vices.

In addition, because most of the drugs used for medical weight loss are originally made for other chronic illnesses, it can be a matter of “hitting two birds with one stone.” In this case, it may even be more economical. At the very least, it may help streamline an older adult’s daily medications so they are easier to manage.

Lastly, because medical weight loss programs are effective, they can help improve or treat other chronic ailments that are impacted by excess weight. Take arthritis, which almost 50% of all seniors have. Studies have proven that shedding extra pounds can help relieve arthritis symptoms and improve mobility.

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!