5 Warning Signs of Malnutrition in Elderly: A Wake-up Call for All


5 Warning Signs of Malnutrition in Elderly: A Wake-up Call for All

Contrary to the misbelief, malnutrition does not only result in weight loss but also weight gain. Any disbalance in the nutrient intake, whether excess or lack of it, can cause malnutrition in people. That’s why diet is touted as the most critical factor that determines your health status. When it comes to older adults, there are bigger questions concerning their diet. How much and which food items to consume and how often? What are the physical signs of malnutrition in adults, and how to prevent it?

We have tried to shed light on all the concerns surrounding malnutrition in the elderly. Read on to know its symptoms with some quick tips for prevention.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when a person doesn't get enough of the proper nutrients their body needs to stay healthy and function properly. It can happen when a person needs to eat more food or doesn't eat a balanced diet with various foods.

When someone is malnourished, their body may not get enough vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, or fats. These nutrients are essential for growth, energy, and maintaining the body's functions. Without them, a person's health can suffer.

Malnutrition can have various effects on the body. It can lead to weight loss, weakness, fatigue, and slow growth in children. It can also weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections and illnesses. In severe cases, malnutrition can be life-threatening.

It's essential to eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This helps ensure your body gets all the nutrients needed to stay strong and healthy. If someone is experiencing malnutrition, it's important to seek medical help to address the underlying causes and receive proper treatment.

5 Warning Signs of Malnutrition in the Elderly

Old age means higher chances of contracting chronic diseases such as heart ailment, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other inflammatory conditions. The rising percentage of illnesses among elders is one of the major malnutrition causes in old age. Besides, dental problems and higher doses of prescribed medicines are other reasons behind a malnourished body. For early diagnosis, let’s understand the early warning malnutrition symptoms in the elderly:

symptoms of malnutrition in elderly


1) Significant Weight Loss

You should be concerned if the elders are experiencing a perpetual loss of weight and body mass. The reduction can constantly occur over time or as a sudden drop in body fat and muscle mass post-surgery or accident.

The causes behind weight loss in elders can be attributed to age-related health issues, such as catabolic diseases, insufficient dietary intake, increased inflammatory conditions, etc, that is danger signs of malnutrition. You should consult a doctor when the weight loss is unexplained and more than 5% in the last 6 months. 

2) Lack of Appetite & Interest in Food

As people age, their calorie intake reduces due to lower metabolic rate and fewer physical activities than young adults. A lot of physiological changes, including lower cardiac output, hypertension, and reduced vital capacity, are responsible for the lack of interest in food among elders. Thus, if your parents or elders have suddenly outgrown their love for food, it can be a sign of malnutrition.

3) Long-term Weakness 

Old age is synonymous with weakness. The age-related loss in muscle mass and physical functions is inevitable yet controllable. The fatigue caused by chronic diseases like diabetes, heart, kidney, and liver diseases can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle and diet plan. During malnutrition, elders experience persistent weakness in the body, followed by frequent illnesses and infections. 

4) Feeling Cold Often

Due to less body fat under their skin, older adults often feel shivers. You should be concerned about this feeling of chilliness when accompanied by sudden weight loss and lack of appetite. Due to a restricted diet, elders miss out on several essential nutrients and vitamins that support an insulated body fat muscle to keep them warm.

5) Constant Tiredness and Annoyance

Although fatigue and irritability are the universal companions of old age people, they can be connected to malnutrition. Older adults' bodies demand special doses of nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, to stay active and strong. The absence of these nutrients becomes a major cause of malnutrition in the elderly.

Diet and Nursing Care Tips to Treat Malnutrition in Adults

A balanced, nutritious diet plays a vital role in subsiding the effects of malnutrition in the elderly. Here’s how you can ensure a healthy golden period for your seniors:

1) Consuming more Fortified Foods: Many packaged and processed foods are actually good for elders suffering from malnutrition. For instance, bread, cereals, eggs, soy milk, and the like add much-needed nutrients to an elder’s everyday diet. Ensure that meals have a mix of vitamin B12, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

2) Increasing Physical Activities: As less as their body allows, senior citizens should continue indulging in light physical activities like walking, dancing for fitness, and aerobics exercise, to improve metabolism and appetite.

3) Indulging in Cooking Activities: Not only bodily changes but psychological changes, too, can result in a lack of appetite among elders. To solve this, elders should take part in cooking activities, like picking their veggies, socialising over meals, etc.

4) Avoiding Emotional Drainage: A stressful and pressurising environment can take a toll on the health and diet of elders. So, make sure their health and finances are well-maintained while avoiding tense conversations while taking meals.

Types of Malnutrition

There are two primary types of malnutrition: undernutrition and overnutrition.

  • Undernutrition: Undernutrition occurs when a person does not consume enough nutrients or energy to meet their body's needs. There are three primary forms of undernutrition:
  • Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM): This is a condition where a person lacks both protein and calories in their diet. It can lead to stunted growth, weight loss, muscle wasting, weakness, and increased infection susceptibility.
  • Micronutrient deficiencies: This type of undernutrition happens when a person lacks specific vitamins and minerals. Common examples include deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, iodine, zinc, and vitamin D. These can cause various health problems and impair normal body functions.
  • Marasmus: Marasmus is a severe undernutrition characterised by chronic energy deficiency. It often affects infants and young children and leads to severe wasting, muscle loss, and a weakened immune system.
  • Overnutrition: Overnutrition, also known as overeating or diet-related obesity, occurs when a person consumes more calories than their body needs, leading to excessive weight gain. Overnutrition is associated with an unhealthy diet high in processed foods, unhealthy fats, added sugars and low in essential nutrients. Over time, it can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of various health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Gifting Healthy Living to Elders with Care Health Insurance

Making changes to the diet of elders is as taxing as it gets. By the age of 50 years, older adults have formed a certain pattern of lifestyle and dietary habits that seem hard to shift. Resultant, old age-related illnesses are difficult to prevent and bear. 

At Care Health Insurance, we ensure that older adults get their fair share of nursing care and financial support with our specially designed – ‘Health Insurance for Senior Citizens.’ The policy packs essential benefits like COVID treatment, pre and post-hospitalisation, annual health check-ups, daycare treatment, domiciliary treatment, and more. So, secure the golden years of your parents against the consequences of malnutrition in the elderly with our valuable health covers.

 >> Also Read: 5 Nutrients That Will Protect Your Eyes

Disclaimer: You should consult a physician before implementing any dietary changes and prevention tips. Read the policy documents carefully to verify the benefits and inclusions.

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