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6 Ways Poor Nutrition Affects Aging Adults

By Patricia Schumacher, 9:00 am on

The body inevitably changes with age, losing bone mass and body tissue. While most seniors experience these things to some degree, the changes of aging are compounded for seniors with poor nutrition. Here are six effects of poor nutrition in the elderly and some ways to alleviate these effects. 

1. Weight Loss

Weight loss in the elderly is caused by a decrease in overall food intake. Poor appetite is common in seniors, and it can be a self-perpetuating cycle. After a period of underfeeding, often caused by a bout of illness, seniors have decreased energy levels, which impacts the ability to regulate food levels. To increase a senior’s appetite, caregivers can serve small portions of high-nutrient foods and create a daily meal schedule.

Poor nutrition can lead to serious health conditions. If your elderly loved one needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of Rhode Island in-home care. Services our caregivers provide include transportation to and from medical appointments and social events, nutritious meal preparation, assistance with daily exercise, and help with everyday tasks like bathing, grooming, and light housekeeping.

2. Weakened Bones

Seniors who lack essential nutrients may experience an overall decrease in body mass. This extends to the bones, which become weaker and more brittle if they don’t get adequate nutrition. To combat low bone density or osteoporosis, seniors should make sure to consume enough calcium and vitamin D on a daily basis. The bones need calcium to maintain a resilient architecture, and vitamin D helps the cells absorb calcium. 

3. Vision Loss

To maintain good vision, it’s important that seniors get the appropriate amount of protein, antioxidants, vitamin A, and lutein. If seniors aren’t getting the right dose of these vitamins and minerals, it exacerbates existing eye conditions and accelerates vision loss. Malnutrition has a direct effect on cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other forms of vision loss. To forestall these effects, seniors should follow a diet filled with leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in tuna and salmon, are also beneficial for vision.

If your loved one needs help preparing daily meals or performing other daily activities, consider hiring a professional caregiver. Rhode Island respite care professionals can assist seniors with a wide array of daily tasks, offering family caregivers the chance to focus on other personal responsibilities or take a break to prevent burnout. Whether it’s for a few hours a day or a few days a week, respite care is the perfect solution for family caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed.

4. Weakened Immune System

When seniors don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients, the immune system is negatively impacted. The production of white blood cells decreases, which leaves seniors susceptible to infections. To boost immunity, seniors should follow a diet filled with zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They should also get vaccinated on an annual basis. 

5. Cognitive Decline

Malnutrition can also cause cognitive decline. There aren’t direct links between poor nutrition and conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but studies show a healthy diet can slow the effects of these diseases. Loss of neurons is often caused by free radical damage, which can be slowed down with the help of antioxidants. Seniors should consume brain-healthy antioxidant-rich foods daily, like pecans, cranberries, kidney beans, and dark chocolate. 

6. Constipation

For seniors, poor diets often lead to constipation. To correct this condition, it’s essential to consume plenty of fiber and drink 8 glasses of water a day. Exercise can also stimulate the digestive system.

Making sure your loved one follows a nutritious diet can prevent several diseases. Certain age-related conditions can make it more challenging for seniors to age in place safely and comfortably, but Rhode Island live-in care experts are available around the clock to help seniors manage their health. Whether your loved one is living with dementia or is recovering from a stroke, you can trust in professional live-in caregivers to enhance his or her quality of life. To learn more about our premier senior care plans, call Home Care Assistance at (401) 284-0979 today.