Older women who are obese and have a larger waist size have a higher risk of fatality, disability, and disease prior to the age of 85, according to a recent study. During the study, which appears in JAMA Internal Medicine, Eileen Rillamas-Sun, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and colleagues sought to determine whether higher body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in older women decreased their chances of living to age 85 without major disability or disease.
The researchers reportedly defined a healthy weight BMI as 18.5 to less than 25, overweight as 25 to less than 30, and obese 30 to greater than 40.
An American Medical Association (AMA) news release notes that the study encompassed 36,611 women from the Women’s Health Initiative aged 72 years at baseline. A total of 19% of participants were classified as healthy, 14.7% had prevalent disease, 23.2% had incident disease, 18.3% had mobility disability (defined as using crutches, a walker, wheelchair, or having limited ability to walk), and 24.8% expired. According to the results, both underweight and obese women have a higher risk of fatality prior to age 85, while overweight and obese women exhibited a higher risk of mobility disability and incident disease.
The researchers add that a WC greater than 88 centimeters was also linked to a higher risk of early death, mobility disability, and incident disease. The study also indicates that African American women who were overweight or had a WC greater than 88 centimeters at baseline, and Hispanic American women who were obese at baseline, faced greater risk of incident disease compared to Caucasian American women who were overweight or had a WC greater than 88 centimeters.
In its conclusion, the release reports, the study emphasizes that a healthy BMI or WC was ultimately linked to a higher likelihood of surviving to older ages without mobility disability or major disease. The study also calls for further investigation into strategies to maintain healthy body weight and guidance for safe, intentional weight loss in those who are already obese.