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Malnutrition and Chronic Diseases


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For people with certain chronic conditions, proper nutrition is more than just a good idea. It’s an essential part of managing many health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and more.

Older adults with chronic illnesses are especially at risk for poor nutrition, which can happen because of bad eating habits, loss of appetite, and decreased access to healthy foods because of limited mobility, money, or time.

Importance of good nutrition for older adults

Poor nutrition increases your risk for serious health problems. For those living with chronic illnesses, it can result in the loss of muscle and other tissue, which can:

  • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease
  • Make it more difficult to heal wounds
  • Increase risk for infection
  • Increase risk for falls
  • Decrease strength needed to take care of yourself

When these things occur, it can lead to readmission back to the hospital or longer stays in the hospital or rehabilitation facility.

Warning signs of malnutrition in older adults

Alert your health care professional if you have any of the warning signs of poor nutrition:

  • Eating poorly
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties
  • Taking multiple medicines
  • Unplanned weight loss

Therapeutic nutrition can help you heal

When you’re sick, your body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If you don’t have enough fuel, your body might break down the protein in your muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave you feeling weak and less able to fight infection. Therapeutic nutrition provides fuel to help keep your muscles strong and help you recover more quickly.

Your doctor or registered dietitian may recommend using therapeutic nutrition by itself or with other medical care. Therapeutic nutrition works by making sure your body gets the right balance of nutrients needed to fight an ongoing health problem. It cannot prevent health problems, but it may reduce complications, hospital stays, and the need for more expensive medical care. In fact, good nutrition can lead to an up to 50% reduction in avoidable readmissions.

Educational information provided with support from:

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