Ask the doctor
Q. Is it normal to lose some weight as you age? How much weight loss is too much?
A. Most people lose some weight as they age. In fact, an estimated 10% to 20% of men over 65 lose 5% or more of their body weight over the rest of their lifetime. However, losing 5% of your weight in one year or 10% over two years warrants some medical testing.
Your body goes through many changes in your 60s that can contribute to weight loss. For instance, muscle mass naturally drops, and the senses of smell and taste weaken; either of these changes can suppress appetite. In addition, chronic medical problems, hospitalizations, and acute illnesses like pneumonia can speed up weight loss. Other possible causes include undiagnosed cancer, long-term infections, depression, heart or lung disease, and digestive problems that prevent the body from absorbing nutrients from food.
Blood tests and screening for psychiatric issues often can help identify the source of your weight loss. Symptoms of certain diseases may lead to additional tests. If your weight loss continues, you might have a CT scan or endoscopy to look for an underlying cause. If no medical conditions are found, the focus would then turn to correcting any eating problems, like swallowing or chewing, and adjusting any medication that may interfere with appetite.
—William Kormos, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch