Health/Fitness

More women obese as they age

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To stay in shape, Diane Jensen, a 55-year-old mother of three works out at Curves on north Duke Street as often as possible.

"I want to be healthy," Jensen says. "I don't want to be arthritic and not being able to move around."

Unfortunately, that's the reality for many women as they get older. A recent study led by Dr. Heather Whitson at Duke University found women over 65 are at a greater risk of living with disability than men of the same age.

"We determined that of the chronic health conditions -- that obesity and arthritis seem to be the biggest contributors," Whitson says. "Other contributors also contributed some and then a portion of the gender gap remains unexplained."

Whitson says women have a tendency to gain more weight over time than men. The pounds usually begin to pile on during child bearing years and continue through peri-menopause and menopause.

"And what we saw, is [what] that really translates into is loss of independence when we're older," he explains.

Women develop the inability to complete common, everyday tasks like eating, getting dressed and walking.

Whitson offers some advice to younger women.

"Stop the problem before it starts," he says. "Don't let those extra pounds add up."

Trish Newton, 44, is on the right track. She recently lost 46 pounds.

"I want to be able to do this when I'm in my 80s," Newton says. "I want to keep on going."

She finds inspiration in friends like Jenson. They are women who motivate each other to live longer, healthier lives.

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