Study: Obesity rate among elderly doubles during 22-year span

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The percentage of U.S. seniors who were obese doubled to 36% during the period from 1980 to 2002, a new federal study shows. The result is increased risks of developing heart disease, diabetes, arthritis-related disabilities and certain cancers, as well as higher overall medical costs.

The percentage of merely overweight U.S. seniors rose to 73% from 55% during the same time span, researchers said. Older men were more likely than older women to be overweight.

Diabetes-related deaths ballooned 43% during the study period. Overall yearly health costs for seniors not within target weight ranges soared to as much as $40 billion, the report added. In addition, the number of Medicare-covered hospital stays rose 20% during the period from 1992 to 2002.

Researchers from 12 federal agencies contributed to the report, which was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. To see the report, visit http://www.agingstats.gov/.