UTMB logoA tremendous rise in obesity among elderly people of Latin America and the Caribbean has been registered. Such individuals may probably have a heavy price to pay or at least the following tidbit suggests this. A latest study initiated by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) holds the view that with rise in obesity rates, elderly people from Latin America and the Caribbean are more inclined to suffer from disabilities.

Data gathered from a Pan-American Health Organization and National Institute on Aging survey was thoroughly scrutinized by the experts. The survey encompassed more than 6,000 people above the age of 65 years. All the study participants were citizens of Bridgetown, Barbados; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Havana, Cuba; Mexico City, Mexico; and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Soham al Snih, UTMB assistant professor and lead author of the study added, “This greater prevalence of obesity is a new thing in Latin America and the Caribbean, the result of people moving from rural to urban areas and shifting their nutritional habits and other aspects of their lives to a more Western pattern. At the same time, we’re seeing a substantial increase in life expectancy. The close relationship that we found between obesity and disability in older adults suggests that we really need to work to prevent these populations from becoming obese.”

A considerable amount of difficulties in walking, bathing, dressing, eating, getting in and out of bed and using the toilet were observed in obese seniors by the authors. It was mentioned that individuals displaying a body mass index equal or greater than 30 were considered obese. People dependent on present day trends may be more likely to develop chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

al Snih quoted, “We need to reorient people to better nutrition, we need to screen for these diseases and do as much as we can to prevent them, and we need to involve these populations in exercise and increase their activity level. It’s very important, because otherwise it will cost much more in the long run.”

Such disorders are possibly blamed to boost the degree of disability among the elderly and severely exert the health care resources of backward countries. The study apparently highlights the prevalence of obesity in different populations of older adults in Latin America and the Caribbean. At present obesity rates in elderly is suggested to be 13.3 percent in Havana and 37.6 percent in Montevideo. However the National Health and Nutrition Survey of 2007-2008, claim the U.S. to have 37.1 percent men above the age of 60 to be obese. Around 33.6 percent obese women over the age of 60 were noted.

The study is published in the June 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.