Unintentional weight loss is a common problem among community-dwelling older adults. Although a slight decline in body weight is considered a normal part of the aging process, clinically significant weight loss (>5% of usual body weight) has harmful consequences on functional status and quality of life, and is associated with excess mortality over a three- to twelve-month period. A variety of physical and psychological conditions, along with age-related changes, can lead to weight loss. In up to one-quarter of patients, there is no identifiable cause. A rational approach to clinical investigation of these patients can facilitate arriving at a diagnosis and minimize unnecessary diagnostic procedures.
Key words: weight loss, older adults, mortality, epidemiology, diagnosis.
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