Obesity and being overweight have become increasingly common of late. In fact, the World Obesity Federation predicts that without significant action from governments and policymakers, over half the global population will be obese and overweight by 2035. Consequently, many are turning to weight loss interventions such as weight loss medications–particularly weight loss pills–to buck the trend.
As these drugs are clinically proven to be effective in both losing and maintaining weight, they have gained much traction among those seeking to shed pounds. Nonetheless, recent data show that weight loss pills remain a relatively untapped option for older adults. This is despite how a growing number are overweight or obese–and thus more susceptible to the complications excess weight at an advanced age can bring.
The Problem with Weight Among Older Adults
Across America, obesity rates among older adults have dramatically increased in the past few decades. Between 1988-1994 and 2015-2018, the rate has nearly doubled from 22% to 40%. This can be attributed to various socioeconomic factors, including the evolution of diets from mostly plant-based components to a range of unhealthy foods high in sugar and fat. Moreover, as people advance in age, hormonal changes, decreasing muscle mass, and a slower and less active lifestyle increase the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese.
Indeed, 2 in 5 adults aged 60+ live with these afflictions today. This is a cause for concern, as excessive weight at such an age puts them at serious risk of developing chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a Reviews in Clinical Gerontology study finds that obesity is closely associated with increased disabilities and functional limitations that lead to poor quality of life.
That said, the use of weight loss pills among older adults can be greatly beneficial in reversing the trend.
A Way out Of Weight with Weight Loss Medications
Weight loss pills are FDA-approved medications that primarily address biological functions that make losing weight difficult, even with a healthy diet and enough physical activity. This is most commonly done through appetite suppression and the impediment of fat absorption and storage.
However, not everyone can get access to some weight loss treatments. It depends on whether you’re suffering from being overweight vs obesity. The former won’t usually be treated with weight loss medication unless there are underlying medical issues with blood pressure, diabetes, and the like.
The latter, obesity, is where your body mass index exceeds 30 and is often treated with medication. Older adults are less likely to be obese but are more likely to have underlying conditions that will result in physician-recommended weight loss pills.
To prescribe the most suitable drug for an individual, physicians look at pre-existing ailments and medications that could either clash with or affect a particular drug’s efficacy. In this way, physicians are able to monitor changes better and make dosage adjustments as each individual uniquely requires.
Can Older People Use Weight Loss Pills?
Given the medical complexities involved, older adults struggling with their weight may well be prescribed pills. Prescription medications can help all individuals lose weight by up to 15% if used for at least six months to a year. This may seem insubstantial to some, but this is already a massive win for older Americans at risk of various health concerns due to their weight.
In fact, dropping even 5% of weight can vastly reduce blood pressure and sugar levels, ease joint pain, and improve the quality of sleep. On top of this, older adults might even find that being prescribed weight loss pills hit two birds with one stone. This is because many weight loss medications are actually designed to treat other chronic conditions common among seniors. For instance, medications with semaglutide are also used to treat diabetes.
That said, these medications don’t come without side effects. Common ones are mild and temporary, including insomnia, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea. Nonetheless, there have been occasions of more severe adverse effects, such as pulmonary hypertension, brought about by phentermine. While these instances are rare, it is still advisable for those interested in using such medications to speak at length with their physician. Doing so will temper expectations and clear concerns, particularly with regard to the risks involved.
As an increasing number of older adults are saddled with obesity and being overweight, many are turning to weight loss medications as viable intervention tools. When paired with a healthy diet and exercise, these drugs significantly increase the chances of losing and maintaining weight–and improving the quality of life of many.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Weight Loss Medications Suitable for All Older Adults?
The suitability of weight loss medications for older adults is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each individual’s health profile, medical history, and current conditions play a significant role in determining whether these medications are appropriate.
Factors such as existing health issues, cardiovascular health, metabolic rate, and medication interactions need to be carefully evaluated. Consulting a healthcare professional is essential to assess the potential benefits and risks and to develop a personalized treatment plan.
How Do Weight Loss Medications Interact with Other Medications?
Weight loss medications can interact with other medications that older adults may be taking to manage different health conditions. Some weight loss medications might affect the absorption, metabolism, or effectiveness of other drugs.
It is crucial for older adults to disclose their complete medication regimen to their healthcare provider to identify potential interactions. A thorough evaluation and medication review can help ensure that weight loss medications can be safely integrated into an individual’s treatment plan.
What Potential Side Effects Should Older Adults Be Aware Of?
Like any medication, weight loss medications can come with potential side effects. Older adults should be aware of possible adverse reactions such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, or changes in appetite.
Additionally, some weight loss medications might impact cardiovascular parameters or have effects on mood and sleep. Healthcare professionals can provide comprehensive information about potential side effects, monitor their occurrence, and guide individuals in managing them effectively.
Can Weight Loss Medications Help Improve Mobility and Joint Health in Older Individuals?
Weight loss medications can contribute to improved mobility and joint health in older adults by reducing excess weight that places strain on joints. Excess weight can exacerbate joint issues and limit mobility, impacting overall quality of life. When used in conjunction with a balanced diet and appropriate exercise, weight loss medications can potentially support weight reduction, leading to reduced joint stress and enhanced mobility.
What Role Does Diet and Exercise Play While Using Weight Loss Medications?
Diet and exercise remain integral components of weight management, even when weight loss medications are part of the equation. These medications are most effective when combined with a balanced and nutritious diet that supports weight loss goals.
Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity helps enhance the overall impact of weight loss medications by promoting calorie burn, muscle strength, and cardiovascular health. A holistic approach that includes diet, exercise, and medication can yield more favorable outcomes.
How Can Older Adults Monitor Their Progress and Adjust Their Treatment Plan?
Regular communication with a healthcare provider is essential for older adults using weight loss medications. Health professionals can monitor progress, assess any changes in health status, and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.
Monitoring may involve regular check-ups, measurements of weight and other relevant metrics, and discussions about any changes in diet, exercise, or medication regimen. By maintaining open communication, older adults can optimize their weight loss journey and achieve their desired health outcomes.
The question of whether older adults can effectively use weight loss medications is a complex and nuanced one, with considerations spanning individual health, age-related changes, and overall well-being. Older adults should view weight loss medications as part of a comprehensive strategy that includes not only pharmacological interventions but also dietary choices, regular physical activity, and ongoing medical guidance. These elements work in tandem to create a holistic approach that maximizes the potential for success.