Malnutrition – The Often Overlooked Health Issue

Posted on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Did you know that one does not need to appear emaciated to experience malnutrition? Individuals experiencing malnutrition come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

Those who are particularly susceptible to malnutrition include older adults and adults experiencing a chronic health illness such as cancer or arthritis. The good news is that malnutrition can be prevented and the effects can be reversed with proper nutritional restoration.

What Does Malnutrition Look Like?

There are several red flags to help you spot the signs of malnutrition in yourself or a loved one.

  • Weight loss - a visual check of how clothing is fitting can be the first clue
  • Slow wound healing
  • Out of date food in the fridge
  • Bruising and/or dry cracked skin 
  • Lack of energy
  • Disinterest in food and eating

How Does Malnutrition Affect The Individual?

The effects of malnutrition can have a profound impact on health and wellbeing. Physical, as well as, mental health can deteriorate rapidly when an individual is not able to provide their body with the nutrients and energy needed. 

Weak bones and muscles can reduce mobility making it more challenging to walk, navigate stairs, and bath. A reduction in strength often means losing independence as the individual’s ability to lift grocery bags, carry laundry, and move from sitting to standing is compromised.

Without adequate muscular strength, posture can become stooped causing strain and pain in the neck, back, and shoulders. As well, the risk of falls increases with a reduction in strength and mobility.

When malnutrition is present the immune system may also be impacted. Healing after an injury or surgery is typically much slower and individuals are more susceptible to illness and infection.

The fatigue and irritability that are present whenever energy needs are not met set the stage for the co-occurrence of depression and anxiety. 

Reversing malnutrition provides the opportunity for you or your loved one to improve health and wellbeing. Preventing malnutrition should be the goal!

Reversing Or Preventing Malnutrition

If you or your loved one is experiencing unintentional weight loss, poor appetite, difficulty eating, or other issues that affect your eating pattern, visit with a health care provider. Symptoms may be caused by an underlying physical or mental health condition, medication or a combination of medications, or may result when accessibility to food is limited. Identifying why eating habits have changed provides valuable information about what steps may be needed to reverse malnutrition.

Along the way note that good dental care is important. This ensures that the individual can chew and swallow safely and with ease.

And keep it simple when selecting foods and beverages for meals and snacks. Follow these guidelines to ensure you provide your body with the important nutrients and energy it needs.

  • Try to eat every 3-5 hours when you are awake. This might include three (3) meals and a snack or two depending on what you prefer.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Produce packs a great vitamin, mineral, and fiber punch.
  • When possible, include a variety of colorful fruits and veggies in your eating pattern.
  • Include sources of protein throughout the day.  This might include eggs, fish, chicken, dairy, beef, nuts and pork.
  • Enjoy dairy at each meal to keep bones strong and healthy.  Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent options.
  • Hydration is important.  Drinking tea, water, juice, and milk can provide your body with the fluid it requires. 

Don’t let malnutrition set you back. Be aware of the signs and symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider, and take action to reverse the effects of malnutrition.

 At Mom’s Meals, our goal is to provide a variety of tasty meals that our clients will enjoy. We know that each client is unique in their taste preferences and nutritional needs. That’s why our clients have the opportunity to order the meals they want from our menu. Our meals are well balanced and portioned to provide you with the nutrients your body needs. Our chefs are continually developing new menu items to satisfy the diverse palates of our clients. Customer support team members are available to assist you in selecting items for your next order.

Sources

  1.  MyPlate for Older Adults – Tufts University. https://hnrca.tufts.edu/myplate/
  2. National Council on Aging:  Ten Ways Malnutrition Can Affect Your Health. https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/chronic-disease/nutrition-chronic-conditions/why-malnutrition-matters/10-ways-malnutrition-impact-your-health-6-steps-prevention/

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