There are a number of factors that can create or contribute to nutritional concerns as we age. These factors include but not may not be limited to: the existence of chronic diseases, a person’s oral health, the medications they take, the malabsorption or under consumption of certain key nutrients, changes in our skin, alcohol intake, finances, our physical and/or mental status and just a lack of desire to eat food.
Some chronic diseases, most notably high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, can cause someone to restrict their diet to the point of limiting key nutrients. It is important to read the nutrition facts on packaged foods to help control salt, sugar, and fat intake. It is a good idea to consult with a registered dietician to help plan nutritious meals while managing these conditions. Hy-Vee Food Store offers free appointments with their dietitians to accomplish this goal.
- High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are examples of chronic diseases that may cause someone to restrict their diet, to the point of limiting key nutrients
- Add flavor to foods with natural spices instead of salt
- Avoid high sugar, high fat foods
- Read the nutrition facts label on packaged and canned foods
- Consult with a dietician to learn which foods will offer adequate nutrients without contributing to the disease process
People who have difficulty with their teeth and gums may experience changes in their food choices. Issues such as poor dentition, gum disease, poorly fitting dentures, mouth sores, dry mouth (often induced by certain medications), or missing teeth can make chewing difficult. Smoothies, Greek yogurt with soft fruit, oatmeal, cottage cheese with soft fruit, low-sodium soup, and canned tuna are healthy food choices.
- Difficulty with teeth and gums can affect the food choices we make
- Examples include poor dentition, gum disease, poorly fitting dentures, mouth sores, dry mouth, or missing teeth
- Meats are usually the first food to go when chewing is difficult
- Smoothies, Greek yogurt with soft fruit such as bananas, pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, oatmeal, eggs, cottage cheese with soft fruit, low-fat milk, low-sodium soups, canned tuna
Medications can change our nutritional needs. They may increase or decrease appetitie or cause dry mouth. Some medication forces people to eliminate certain foods from their diet such as citrus fruit and green, leafy vegetables. People should report using herbs, vitamins, or supplements to their doctor to avoid adverse interactions with their medications. Also, talk to your doctor if your medication really affects appetite and see if there is an alternative treatment.
- Can cause increased nutritional needs
- Can change appetite- up or down
- Can cause dry mouth
- Result in certain food groups from being cut out of the diet entirely like citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables
- Always report the use of herbs, vitamins, or supplements to your doctor as they can interfere with the medications
- Ask your doctor to suggest other options if medications really affect appetite and desire to eat
Nutrient Malabsorption/Under Consumption
There are certain nutrients that are often under consumed or not absorbed properly by the body as we age. These are calcium, B vitamins, protein, potassium, and vitamin D. Be aware that vitamin B12 will not be absorbed adequately while taking medications for GERD and that our skin does not produce vitamin D as well as we get older. Lower vitamin D can contribute to the risk of fracture. Always consume enough dietary fiber and water each day.
- Important nutrients are often under consumed or not absorbed properly by the body as we age
- Examples include calcium, B vitamins, protein, potassium, and vitamin D
- Food is the best source of these nutrients rather than vitamins or supplements
- Skin does not produce vitamin D as well as when we are younger paired with decreased dairy intake or lactose intolerance can contribute to bone weakness and increase in fracture
- Decreased ability to absorb vitamin B12 due to stomach acid secretion and the effects of proton-pump inhibitors and antacids, try fortified cereals that supply vitamin B12 Consume enough dietary fiber and water each day
Excessive intake of alcohol can cause nutrients to be malabsorbed or a person will just eat less increasing the risk of malnutrition.
People who have lower incomes may choose cheaper, less nutritious food which becomes staples for them rather than more expensive, fresh food.
- Affects choices we make when grocery shopping
- A lower income can result in buying cheaper, less nutritious foods
Functional status can impact what someone eats as he/she is less able to shop and prepare meals needed for adequate health. Fatigue can be a limiting factor. Grief, depression, or stress can impact the desire make meals or make wise food choices. Stores often supply pre-sliced fruits and vegetables if cutting or chopping is not possible due to arthritis or neuropathy. Dementia can affect eating patterns as people “forget how to eat” and must be fed by someone else.
Lack of Desire
Meals served in a facility or by home delivery may not be of interest and a person refuses to eat. People often want meals they remember from childhood. Some people experience a loss of smell and/or taste which make certain meals unsatisfying or less desirable. People tend to eat better and more adequately when it is a social event.
Our caregivers can assist with nutritional needs by shopping for/with you and preparing healthy meals in your home.
If you or someone you love is in need of care, contact us today.