The Warning Signs
Any disease, illness or chronic condition which causes you to change the way you eat, or makes it hard for you to eat, puts your nutritional health at risk. Four out of five adults have chronic diseases that are affected by diet.
Confusion or memory loss that keeps getting worse is estimated to affect one out of five or more older adults. This can make it hard to remember what, when or if you’ve eaten.
Feeling sad or depressed, which happens to about one in eight older adults, can cause big changes in appetite, digestion, energy level, weight and well-being. Eating too little and eating too much both lead to poor health. Eating the same foods day after day or not eating fruits and vegetables, and milk products daily will also cause poor nutritional health. One in five adults skip meals daily. Only 13% of adults eat the minimum amount of fruits and vegetables needed.
One in four older adults drink too much alcohol. Many health problems become worse if you drink more than one or two alcoholic beverages per day.
A healthy mouth, teeth and gums are needed to eat. Missing, loose, or rotten teeth or dentures which don’t fit well or cause mouth sores make it hard to eat.
As many as 40% of older Americans have incomes of less than $6,000 per year. Having less — or chosing to spend less — than $25-30 per week for food makes it very hard to get the foods you need to stay healthy.
One-third of all older people live alone. Being with people daily has a positive effect on morale, well-being and eating.
Many older Americans must take medicines for health problems. Almost half of older Americans take multiple medicines daily. Growing old may change the way we respond to drugs. The more medicines you take, the greater the chance for side effects such as increased or decreased appetite, change in taste, constipation, weakness, drowsiness, diarrhea, nausea, and others. Vitamins or minerals when taken in large doses act like drugs and can cause harm. Alert your doctor to everything you take.
Losing or gaining a lot of weight when you are not trying to do so is an important warning sign that must not be ignored. Being overweight also increases your chance of poor health.
Although most older people are able to eat, one of every five have trouble walking, shopping, buying and cooking food, especially as they get older. Most older people lead full and productive lives. But as age increases, risk of frailty and health problems increase. Checking your nutritional health regularly makes good sense.