Eating a balanced, nutritional diet is important at any age. For older adults, proper nutrition can be the difference between health and sickness.
Malnutrition is a serious problem in the elderly. It occurs when someone doesn’t eat enough food or doesn’t eat the right foods.
If we all know eating well is important, why is it a challenge later in life? The fact is, nutritional needs change as the body ages.
An 80-year-old body processes food in a different way than a 50-year-old one. If seniors don’t recognize and adjust for aging, their health is at risk.
Poor eating habits put seniors at risk for chronic health issues. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and bone loss can come from lack of nutrition.
Smart food choices boost mental and physical function. A proper diet helps people manage blood pressure and cholesterol. It can reduce the risk of bone loss and arthritis.
It’s important to note that proper nutrition is more complicated than food choice. Sandia View Assisted Living in Albuquerque looks at everything related to proper nutrition.
Keep reading to learn what age-related changes affect seniors.
Digestive System Changes
One of the main changes that affect nutrition is slower digestion. Reduced amounts of saliva and stomach acid make it tougher to break down food.
The body doesn’t absorb important nutrients. That means missing out on Vitamins like B6 and B12 and folic acid. Those vitamins and minerals are important for memory, circulation, and mental alertness.
Eating high-fiber foods and increasing water consumption can improve digestion.
As people age their metabolism decreases. It’s a natural process that again changes the way the body processes food. Your body doesn’t burn calories at the same rate it once did. Because of this, older people need fewer calories.
A focus on quality over quantity is vital for good health. Smart food choices provide more nutrition at each meal or snack. It’s important to choose low-fat, low-sodium foods that are nutrient-dense.
A slower metabolism is most noticeable if you’re inactive. To stay at a healthy weight you must adjust your activity and food choices.
Women who are active should consume 1,800 calories per day. Men need about 2,300 each day. If you’re very active, consume more calories. If you are sedentary, you’ll need fewer calories.
There are several causes for reduced appetite. Dulled tastebuds are the first cause. When you can’t taste food it’s harder to enjoy it.
Seniors seem to lose salty and bitter tastes first. This can lead to adding too much salt to food. Older adults need less salt. Too much sodium can complicate blood pressure and other diseases.
On the other end of the spectrum, sweet-tasting taste buds stay strong. Elders indulge in sugary snacks more often because they taste good.
In both cases, it’s important to find alternatives. Season food with flavored oils, herbs, and spices instead of salt. Add sweet flavors with fruits, and vegetables like sweet potatoes.
Try not to overcook food. Food tastes better when its colors and textures are intact. An appealing meal looks and smells good.
Many seniors take medications to manage health issues. Some medicines have side effects like loss of appetite or an upset stomach. If a medication dulls taste it can lead to over-salting food.
It’s important to consider both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Sometimes a vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement causes an interaction that decreases appetite.
Changing medications and supplements may relieve an appetite issue.
Appetite and emotions connect in many ways. Seniors who are lonely or depressed often stop eating. In other cases, people eat more and gain unwanted weight when they’re sad.
A person who’s depressed or worried about something may forget to eat. Ignore the brain’s hunger messages for too long, and it may stop sending them.
Lack of appetite deprives the body of essential nutrients. Missing nutrients leads to low energy, poor sleep, and a compromised immune system.
The symptoms of poor nutrition make it difficult to cope with depression and anxiety. That’s why the right approach to nutrition for seniors is vital to their well-being.
There are other reasons for lack of appetite. Sometimes a senior doesn’t eat because their dentures don’t fit. Or, they don’t want to cook for one person.
If shopping is difficult, that can be a factor. Be sure to ask lots of questions if you think an elderly friend or relative isn’t eating well.
Dining with family, friends, and neighbors can boost appetite. Companionship and assistance with daily living can help someone regain a healthy appetite.
Next, let’s look at signs of poor nutrition. Malnutrition can cause problems other than weight loss.
Signs of Poor Nutrition in Seniors
Seniors suffering from lethargy, aches or pains may have nutrient deficiencies. Here are only a few physical indications of poor nutrition:
Low Iron Levels
Lethargy and pale skin can mean low iron levels. Iron levels need a boost to produce enough red blood cells. Thinning hair is another symptom of low iron.
If someone has weakness in their muscles, tingling and numbness check for a lack of potassium. Constipation is another sign. Add bananas, milk, beans, peas, and whole grains to the menu.
Lack of Vitamin D
Low levels of Vitamin D lead to brittle bones, fatigue, and muscle pain. Eat fortified dairy foods, fatty fish, and spend time outside in the sunshine.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Dry skin and ridges in nails show low Vitamin A. Eat carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens for Vitamin A.
Always consult with your doctor before making big changes to your diet. Some medications interact with certain foods.
Nutrition Is a Priority at Sandia View Assisted Living in Albuquerque
Senior nutrition is essential for a high-quality life. We provide nourishing meals and snacks to our residents every day.
Dining habits and atmosphere are important, too. Our loving staff serves every meal family-style. Meals always taste better when shared.
We serve three nutritious and delicious meals every day. Our residents enjoy snacks and drinks anytime they like.
Call Today for a Tour
If you need professional caregiving, contact Sandia View Assisted Living in Albuquerque. Our assisted living homes keep seniors healthy, happy, and engaged.
Please visit Sandia View online or in person. Call to arrange your personal tour. We’d love to meet you and answer any questions.