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Quality nutrition is key for everyone. As we age though, our appetites change, so it becomes especially important.
There are several reasons, including:
As we age, our risk of getting sick increases. Chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure can become more difficult to control. Inadequate nutrition due to poor diet can trigger or worsen these illnesses and complicate recovery.
When someone with a healthy weight gets ill and cannot eat enough, their body has some reserves to draw from to sustain itself. But in underweight individuals, these reserves are often depleted. As a result, risk of sickness increases, illnesses can hit harder, and it can take longer to recover.
Loss of lean muscle mass can result in physical weakness. That can make it even harder to purchase, prepare, or eat food, potentially creating a vicious cycle.
A lack of body fat can make it harder to stay warm, and the decrease in “cushioning” can increase the risk of fractures in the event of a fall.
Sometimes, increasing calories can be as simple as eating a bit more at breakfast or dinner, having an extra snack, or adding nutritional supplements (like Ensure or Boost). For those who do not like supplements, smoothies or milkshakes might be more appealing. Fortifying foods with extra calories can also help. Give these ideas a try:
There are several things caregivers or family members can do to ensure the senior in your life is getting proper nutrition:
By weight, our bodies are mostly water, and we need to keep ourselves hydrated to keep things running smoothly. Among other things, staying hydrated helps keep our bowels moving regularly. People looking to stay hydrated and increase their calorie intake should choose beverages such as milk, fruit juice, or supplement drinks.
For the seniors in your life, please consider these helpful tips. Be sure to visit the Nourishing section of Lifespan Living for more helpful tips on healthy eating, and sign up to receive a regular enewsletter.
Steven McPartland is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Newport Hospital. He provides guidance and diet education to hospital staff and patients to optimize nutrition for recovery during and after hospitalization.