Poor nutrition is a huge problem among senior citizens, but a few simple dietary tweaks can make all the difference in a person’s health.
It’s easy to lose track of your diet as you age, but the wrong foods can do more than just expand your waistline! Without all the vitamins and minerals you need, your body will eventually break down. Here are some of the biggest symptoms of poor nutrition and tips to overcome them.
Consequences of Poor Nutrition
When you do not nourish your body properly, there are a few consequences that you should be aware of :
Without adequate protein consumption, your muscles will eventually atrophy. Simple tasks such as climbing the stairs, moving boxes, and everyday lifting will gradually become more difficult as your muscles weaken. When your muscles aren’t strong enough to do a task, the burden falls on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. These parts of your musculoskeletal system are not meant to bare that kind of stress. This strain can cause serious damage or inflammation, causing pain and potentially necessitating medical intervention.
According to the FDA, a person should consume at least 50 grams of protein on a 2,000 calorie diet. That amount can be adjusted depending on your doctor’s recommendation. Meats, dairy products, nuts, seafood and beans are all relatively high in protein. Try to choose options that are low in sodium and fat.
Your bones rely on calcium to maintain their structure. Without calcium, your bones will eventually weaken. Osteoporosis is a huge problem for seniors who don’t consume enough calcium. Frail bones can easily fracture and break, and for seniors, they can take a long time to heal. Immobility is no way to spend a person’s golden years! Dairy products are extremely high in calcium. For those who do not consume dairy products, calcium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, nuts and soybeans.
Compromised Immune System
Without a strong immune system, your body is more susceptible to diseases and infections. If your body has a hard time fighting off bacteria and viruses, you will experience much worse symptoms, and if these germs get the upper hand, it can even lead to death!
The immune system relies on vitamins A, B, C, D and E to function properly. Furthermore, you also need a little zinc, copper, and iron. Thankfully, most of these nutrients can be found together in the same foods, so keeping your immune system strong is simple. Citrus, bell peppers, spinach, almonds and potatoes are a great source of these essential nutrients.
Cramps and Aches
Certain minerals govern your muscles’ ability to properly contract and relax. In the absence of these minerals, you’ll end up experiencing greater stiffness, cramps, pain and limited mobility. The most important minerals for healthy muscle function are magnesium and potassium. These “ium” minerals are often referred to as electrolytes. Foods rich in electrolytes include bananas, dairy products, watermelons, bananas, avocados, nuts, potatoes and so much more.
With a varied diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, you should have no problem getting enough electrolytes. You may see sports drinks marketed as being full of electrolytes, but beware! While these drinks may contain some electrolytes, they’re jam-packed with enough sugar to make your head spin!
Many everyday foods are loaded with sugar, and while sugar can satiate your hunger for a little bit, it is devoid of positive nutritional value. High sugar consumption leads to a spike in a person’s blood sugar. For the body to process all this extra sugar, your pancreas has to pump out a bunch of insulin. While this happens any time you eat anything, sugary foods make your pancreas work much harder. Eventually, overconsumption of sugary foods can lead to diabetes, and that is a tough disease to manage! In lieu of sugar, consume complex carbs like whole wheat bread and get enough protein and healthy fats. These foods will keep you full much longer, and they release blood sugar at a much slower rate than more sugary foods.
Increased Medical Costs
It probably comes as no surprise that poor nutrition necessitates more visits to the hospital or doctor’s office. Even with a solid insurance plan, those copays can add up. By eating healthier foods and keeping your body well maintained, you’re prolonging your life and keeping your wallet full at the same time.
Decreased Quality of Life
Muscle weakness, frail bones and constant sickness are not the ideal way to spend your retirement. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now, so you owe it to yourself to treat your body right by getting the nutrients that you need. When your body is healthy, you’re ready for any exciting new adventure that comes your way.
How to Prevent Malnutrition
While a quick rundown can give you a general idea of how to improve your diet, your best bet is to visit your doctor regularly and ask him or her for advice. Your doctor has gone through medical school and practiced for years. He or she knows the human body inside and out—literally!
Your doctor knows exactly what the body needs and how to apply that knowledge to your unique needs. If you maintain a varied diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and never skip your physicals, you can enjoy your life to the fullest extent possible.