The importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated. It is vital for older adults looking to stay healthy and maintain their varying degrees of independence.
Older adults are negatively impacted by poor eating habits and a lack of nutritional understanding for seniors. Understanding the changing nutritional needs of older adults is critical due to the overlap of several age-related challenges. Seniors have higher rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Others live with chronic pain, osteoporosis and various forms of arthritis. Many face daily challenges of managing complicated medication regimes.
Studies show that proper senior nutrition reduces the risk of the following:
· Compromised immune system
· General muscle and body weakness leading to more falls
· High blood pressure
· Heart disease
· Certain types of cancer
· Certain types of arthritis
But making dietary changes is difficult. It can be especially overwhelming for older adults who are set in their ways and resistant to change. What can be done to encourage change?
· Incorporate changes slowly.
· Be mindful of medication side effects that by alter appetite.
· Plan to share meals as often as possible.
· Know the signs of constipation.
· Address signs of dysphagia or difficulty swallowing.
· Be sure dentures are in good repair and fit properly.
· Consider other dental issues like gum disease.
· Understand sudden or on-going weight loss as cause for concern.
Do not hesitate to consult a physician. Your doctor will help identify the underlying causes of loss of appetite, weight loss or malnutrition. He or she can test for a number of treatable culprits including ulcers, sinusitis, zinc deficiency, thyroid disease, dementia and depression.
In the meantime, here are three helpful hints:
ü Choose a variety of healthy foods. Eating the same foods day after day is boring and monotonous.
ü Become better informed. Understanding senior nutrition includes taking the side effects of medication into consideration, and it empowers seniors to tailor a nutritious plan with their special needs in mind.
ü Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will require a conscious effort because as we age, we tend to get thirsty less often even though we still require the same amount of liquids as we ever did.