Low weight and overweightness in older adults: risk and clinical management

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Sep-Oct;57(2):127-33. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2014.01.001. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


The prevalence of individuals who are overweight or obese is growing exponentially in the United States and worldwide. This growth is concerning, as both overweightness and obesity lead to impaired physical function, decreased quality of life, and increased risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, overweightness and obesity are related to increased mortality among young and middle-aged adults. This weight-related risk of mortality is more ambiguous among older adults. In fact, obesity may be protective in this population, a relationship described as the "obesity paradox". In this review we discuss the effects of overweightness and obesity among the elderly on cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, along with the risks of low weight. We conclude by discussing the goal of weight management among older adults, focusing particularly on benefits of preserving lean body mass and muscular strength while stabilizing body fat. Ideally, overweight or mildly obese elderly individuals should devise a plan with their physicians to maintain their weight, while increasing lean body mass through a plan of healthy diet, behavioral therapy, and physical activity.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Elderly; Mortality; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Disease Management*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Overweight* / complications
  • Overweight* / epidemiology
  • Overweight* / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Loss*