Everyone knows the importance of following a healthy diet. However, as we age, nutrition becomes an increasingly more vital component in ensuring we can live a strong and healthy lifestyle. Preventing malnutrition in seniors is an incredibly important aspect of senior care, with many elderly people finding it difficult to ensure that they are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need.
Being able to identify the signs of malnutrition and knowing the best ways to reduce it can be difficult. That is why we thought we would take a closer look at the best tips for preventing malnutrition in seniors.
Why is nutrition important?
Ensuring that you are following a nutritious diet is important no matter your age, but it becomes increasingly more important as we get older. A poor diet and malnutrition can result in a wide range of issues for seniors, including:
- A weaker immune system, making them more susceptible to illness and infection
- Weaker wound healing
- Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, resulting in a higher risk of falls and increased discomfort from conditions such as arthritis.
- Reduced cognition
These health issues can all seriously impact the welfare of seniors, resulting in a higher risk of hospitalization and even death.
What causes malnutrition?
When it comes to preventing malnutrition in seniors, it is important to understand what causes the condition. When you are able to determine the cause, it is then easier to develop a clear plan to resolve the issue and ensure you or your loved one is able to get the nutrition that they need.
One of the most common reasons for malnutrition is aging. As we get older, our tastes begin to change, our appetites decline, and we become less active. This means we are consuming fewer calories each day, meaning we are no longer getting the nutrients and vitamins that our body needs.
Socioeconomic factors are another major contributor to malnutrition in seniors. In retirement, many seniors do not have the surplus cash they once had, and with fresh produce and healthy foods increasingly costing more, many need to sacrifice nutritious foods for more affordable options.
Isolation is also another major contributor. Many seniors live alone or with limited social contact, which can result in them putting less effort into what they are eating or having limited options to go to the grocery store.
While malnutrition can cause a range of illnesses, certain conditions can also lead to malnutrition. Cognitive decline can make cooking a difficult task, while certain medications and treatments, like chemotherapy, can reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
What are the signs of malnutrition?
Being able to identify the early signs of malnutrition is essential in helping to reduce its effects on seniors. Depending on the individual, these signs can appear gradually over an extended period of time; however, if you notice any of these symptoms, then you should consult with a doctor or nutritionist as soon as possible.
Some of the most common signs include:
- Reduced appetite
- Continuous fatigue
- Brittle nails and hair
- Poor dental hygiene
- A swollen tongue
- Inflammation around the mouth
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased mood changes
How to monitor and prevent malnutrition in seniors
Preventing malnutrition in seniors is incredibly important and can help them to live a long and healthy life. Looking out for the signs above and acting quickly is essential, and there are certain things that you can do to monitor and prevent malnutrition, including:
When it comes to preventing malnutrition in seniors, one of the first things that you should monitor is their weight. Seniors should make sure that they are keeping a weekly record of their weight alongside checking how their clothes fit them. Sudden weight loss can be an indication of malnutrition or even a more serious disease.
Alongside regularly monitoring weight, it is also important to observe their eating habits. This includes the amount of food being consumed as well as the types of food that they are regularly eating.
Keep track of medications
Medications play an important role in keeping seniors healthy, but they can also be a major contributor to malnutrition. That is why it is important that you keep track of all medication being taken, including the schedule and any potential side effects.
Regularly spending time with seniors is also vital in helping to prevent malnutrition. Whether it is stopping by for mealtime, helping them to go grocery shopping, or simply visiting them, regular social interaction can help to reduce the risk of malnutrition.
Top foods to help improve nutrition
Alongside monitoring how you or your loved ones are getting on, there are several top tips you can follow to improve your nutrition:
1. Eat varied nutrient-rich foods
One of the most important things to do is to ensure that you are eating a varied diet of nutrient-rich food. This includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Protein and low-fat dairy are also good additions to your diet.
2. Reduce sugary drinks
Consuming the right beverages is a core part of any healthy diet, and cutting out sugary drinks can help to reduce the risk of malnutrition. These drinks offer very little nutrient benefit while having high calorific content.
3. Eat healthy snacks
Another great way to improve your diet is to start eating healthy snacks throughout the day. Things such as fruit or low-fat dairy snacks are a great way to ensure you are getting enough nutrients in your diet.
As we age, it can be very difficult for our bodies to absorb all of the nutrients we need from our food and drinks. That is why taking supplements and vitamins can help to keep your body fueled with all of the nutrients it needs for a healthy lifestyle.
5. Eat starchy foods
Eating starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice can help to reduce the risk of malnutrition. These foods are packed with the essential nutrients that help to fuel your body throughout the day.
Tips for Preventing Malnutrition in Seniors: JointFuel360
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