Skip to main content RSS Info Close Search
Feedback

Rapid weight loss in older women linked to significant mortality risk

If someone close to you has lost a lot of weight, it might be time to check in with them or those with a duty of care.

<p>Have you noticed that someone in your family has lost a lot of weight very quickly? If so, this may be worth an intervention or a call to their caretaker to determine the nature of such a change. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Have you noticed that someone in your family has lost a lot of weight very quickly? If so, this may be worth an intervention or a call to their caretaker to determine the nature of such a change. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • It’s been shown people over 65 years often have better health if they carry a little extra weight and have a slightly higher body mass index

 

Researchers assessed 929 older women over the course of five years and found 39.4 percent of the patients had rapid weight loss, which was associated with a 49 percent increase in the risk of dying in the next 9.5 years.

This risk of dying increased to 87 percent in women who experienced rapid weight loss of more than 10 percent in a 12-month interval.

The understanding of factors that could contribute to rapid weight loss remains poor, with current treatments including correcting suboptimal dietary and physical activity behaviours.

New research by Edith Cowan University Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Cassandra Smith noted that abdominal aortic calcification, also known as AAC — a marker of advanced blood vessel disease, was linked to a higher risk of rapid weight loss in the 929 older women who participated in the study.

“Rapid weight loss, when it occurs in older women, can be a sign of bad things to come such as early institutionalisation, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and pose a higher risk for falls and fractures,” Dr Smith said.

When looking at the one-in-two women that had moderate to extensive AAC, they were 36 percent and 58 percent more likely to have rapid weight loss over five years.

Rapid weight loss is defined as a more than five percent decrease in body weight within any 12-month interval over five years of observations.

Following a hip fracture in Australia, 11 percent of patients are discharged to residential care and up to six percent of cases result in death.

Dr Smith said the explanations for the relationship between AAC and rapid weight loss remained unclear.

One theory is that AAC could limit blood flow to the gut, which could affect the absorption of nutrients.

“This has the potential to change how we treat those older individuals who present with rapid weight loss,” Dr Smith said.

“The traditional approach would be to increase protein and energy intake, but data is showing us that it could actually be vascular disease that is driving that weight loss, in which case using the traditional approaches may not help with body composition.

“Given the poor outcomes commonly associated with rapid weight loss in older adults, AAC may be a tool to identify those older women with [the] highest risk. It also opens the door to an opportunity for cardiovascular disease risk screening and to consider disease in other vascular beds or organs that may be influencing body composition.

“The next steps of this research are to replicate these findings in other cohorts, to perform studies with blood flow measures and the capacity to track macronutrient absorption.”

Your body lets you know when it doesn’t agree with certain foods or lets you know if you aren’t eating enough of something, so it’s important to ‘listen’ to your body and not ignore any symptoms that may appear.

Taste and smell can decrease as we age, so to counterbalance that you need to eat more flavourful or pleasant-smelling food to increase your appetite.

If you have a decrease in appetite or become unable to prepare your own food, it can result in a huge loss in vitamins, minerals and proteins the body needs to stave off disease and illness.

 

To learn more about the importance of nutrition, check out the Aged Care Guide to nutrition.

Has someone close to you lost a lot of weight in a short period? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know how you intervened. For more information, news and industry updates, subscribe to the newsletter and stay up to date on social media.

 

Related content:

Hydration for elderly people and the dangers of dehydration
How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls
Dementia behaviour changes and challenges

Comments

Read next

Subscribe to our Talking Aged Care newsletter to get our latest articles, delivered straight to your inbox
  1. A new study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia:...
  2. Our furry friends are more than just pets. They are cherished...
  3. The Department of Health and Aged Care will address the...
  4. As one ages, it’s a good idea to keep as healthy and active...
  5. Lutheran Services has become one of the first Aged Care...
  6. What would you like to see from the new Aged Care Act in...

Recent articles

  1. Researchers suggest there could be a link between...
  2. Have you tried out the ‘Dollars to Care’ tool yet?
  3. Arthritis is not only painful, it can have an impact on your...
  4. Researchers have found a possible new cause of...
  5. A new partnership between two not-for-profits is set to help...
  6. Scientists have created 3D-printed brain tissue that could...
  7. The deadline to provide feedback on the new Aged Care Act has...
  8. New evidence suggests that people with aphasia may find it...
  9. Looking to make mealtime easier? Look no further than some top...
  10. Researchers suggest that there could different behaviours...
  11. Looking after someone with dementia means adapting to their...
  12. Hearing loss is considered a vital priority in addressing...