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How to Prevent Senior Malnutrition

signs of malnutrition

Not only do seniors have different nutritional needs than younger adults, they also take more medication, have higher rates of chronic medical conditions-such as diabetes and heart disease-and are more likely to live alone; all of which contribute to the rising numbers of older Americans who are seriously impacted by a deficient diet.

Know the signs and symptoms of senior malnourishment and how to protect your older loved ones from this preventable state.

Causes of Malnutrition in Seniors

  • Lack of interest in cooking
  • Living alone and eating for one
  • Changing taste buds
  • Medication side-effects that supress appetite or create bitter tastes
  • Restricted diets such as low sodium or low fat diets
  • Preferring to drink alcohol over eating
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble chewing due to sore gums or poor dental health
  • Limited income to buy nutritious food
  • Expensive medications leave little room for food
  • Lack of mobility - unable to get to the store
  • Depression and dementia

Senior Malnutrition Prevention Checklist

  1. Check the refrigerator and observe eating habits
  2. Watch for health changes and fluctuation in weight
  3. Encourage foods rich in the 5 key vitamins and nutrients
  4. Boost hydration with 9 glasses of water a day
  5. Ask for help when you need it from sources like A Place for Mom

Top 5 Vitamins and Nutrients for Older Adults

  1. Folic Acid 400 mcg per day: Foods rich in Folic Acid: spinach, asparagus, breakfast cereal, lentils.
  2. B-12 2.4 mcg per day: Foods rich in B-12: turkey, salmon, crab, clams, mussels, chicken, beef, eggs, milk.
  3. Vitamin C 75-90 mg per day: Foods rich in Vitamin C: oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet red pepper, broccoli, potatoes.
  4. Vitamin D 600-800 IU per day: Foods rich in Vitamin D: canned salmon, sardines or mackerel, instant oatmeal, cereal, egg yolk, soy milk, cow's milk or orange juice fortified with Vitamin D.
  5. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) Foods rich in EFAs: flaxseed oil, canned tuna, oysters, herring or sardines, salmon, trout, crab.

Ways to Help Seniors Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is one of the top 10 reasons seniors end up in the emergency room. A good guide for anyone over the age 65 is to drink 9 glasses of fluid a day. Water is best, but all liquid counts! It's important to watch sugar intake and to discourage drinking alcohol.

  1. Soup - an excellent way to increase fluid and nutrients
  2. Coffee with milk
  3. Tea - caffeinated or herbal
  4. Iced tea - black tea or fruit-flavored herbal teas
  5. Popsicles - natural, all fruit are best
  6. Juice - 100% juice is best
  7. Smoothies - add protein powder, yogurt and vegetables for extra nutrition
  8. Coconut water - a good way to get natural electrolytes
  9. Milk - chilled soy milk, rice milk, goat or cow's milk. You may also consider steaming milk and adding a squeeze of chocolate syrup or cinnamon.

Read more about senior nutrition.

 

Fight Senior Malnutrition

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Joan Lunden on Senior Nutrition

Joan Lunden and senior nutrition expert Dr. Jones-Born on Better TV

Joan Lunden and nutrition expert Dr. Jones-Born talk about five key nutrients and vitamins every senior needs, the epidemic of senior malnutrition and recipes tailored to senior nutrition needs.

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