What you may not know about nutrition and the elderly

By September 27, 2019 March 27th, 2020 No Comments

Aging involves so many physiological changes that it can impact the nutritional status of seniors. And poor nutrition, in turn, can affect everything in seniors from physical health to mental health.

Malnutrition is not just about not having enough to eat. It is also caused by poor food choices that lead to dietary deficiencies, inadequate food intake, increased nutrient loss, and poor nutritional absorption. That’s why it’s extremely important that their caregivers stay vigilant when it comes to making sure seniors are eating correctly.

Factors that can affect food intake include

  • Decreased sense of taste and smell that occurs in the aging.
  • Poor oral health or ill-fitting dentures that lead to difficulty chewing.
  • Conditions such as osteoarthritis that limits mobility, making it difficult for a senior to shop for food.
  • Chronic gastric issues like gastritis and indigestion may lead to avoiding healthy foods, such a fruits and vegetables.

Problems caused by malnutrition in seniors

According to the Mayo Clinic, health concerns that can be caused by poor nutrition include:

  • A weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections.
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass.
  • A higher risk of hospitalization.
  • An increased risk of death.

Nutrition requirements for seniors

The brain requires certain nutrients to function, and as a person ages, those needs change a bit. Older adults need calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, fiber, and potassium. Cold water fish, nuts, and dark-skinned vegetables and fruits are all things the elderly need in their diet.

If you’re unsure, you can find some guidelines for healthy eating for older adults at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The National Institute of Health recommends some “food shifts” you can make to go from eating poorly to eating what’s best for your health.

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