“Senior health: How to prevent and detect malnutrition”

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“Senior health: How to prevent and detect malnutrition”

“Malnutrition is a serious senior health issue. Know the warning signs and how to help an older loved one avoid poor nutrition.”

“By Mayo Clinic Staff
Good nutrition is critical to overall health and well-being — yet many older adults are at risk of inadequate nutrition. Know the causes and signs of nutrition problems in older adults, as well as steps you can take to ensure a nutrient-rich diet for an older loved one.”

“Problems caused by malnutrition”

“Malnutrition in older adults can lead to various health concerns, including:

  • A weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
  • Poor wound healing
  • Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures
  • A higher risk of hospitalization
  • An increased risk of death
  • In addition, malnutrition can lead to further disinterest in eating or lack of appetite — which only makes the problem worse.”

“How malnutrition begins”

” The causes of malnutrition might seem straightforward — too little food or a diet lacking in nutrients. In reality, though, malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. For example:

  • Health concerns. Older adults often have health problems, such as dementia or dental issues, that can lead to decreased appetite or trouble eating. Other factors that might play a role include a chronic illness, use of certain medications, difficulty swallowing or absorbing nutrients, a recent hospitalization, a diminished sense of taste or smell, or abdominal issues, such as pain or bloating.
  • Restricted diets. Dietary restrictions — such as limits on salt, fat, protein or sugar — can help manage certain medical conditions, but might also contribute to inadequate eating.
  • Limited income. Some older adults might have trouble affording groceries, especially if they’re taking expensive medications.
  • Reduced social contact. Older adults who eat alone might not enjoy meals as before, causing them to lose interest in cooking and eating.
  • Limited access to food. Many older adults do not drive and may not have access to food or the right types of food.
  • Depression. Grief, loneliness, failing health, lack of mobility and other factors might contribute to depression — causing loss of appetite.
  • Alcoholism. Too much alcohol can interfere with the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Nutrients might also be lacking if alcohol is substituted for meals.”

” How to spot malnutrition”

“The signs of malnutrition in older adults can be tough to spot, especially in people who don’t seem at risk — but uncovering problems at the earliest stage can help prevent complications. To detect malnutrition:

  • Observe your loved one’s eating habits. Spend time with your loved one during meals at home, not just on special occasions. If your loved one lives alone, find out who buys his or her food. If your loved one is in a hospital or long-term care facility, visit during mealtimes.
  • Watch for weight loss. Help your loved one monitor his or her weight at home. You might also watch for other signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothing fits.
  • Be alert to other red flags. In addition to weight loss, malnutrition can cause poor wound healing and dental difficulties. It may also cause weakness, which can result in falls.
  • Know your loved one’s medications. Many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • What you can do about malnutrition
  • Even small dietary changes can make a big difference in an older adult’s health and well-being.” READ MORE

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