Can you be overweight and malnourished? Can loneliness affect your nutritional status? Take this 5-question quiz to discover how to maintain good nutrition as you age.

1. Malnourished older adults:

A. Look thin and frail
B. Can be overweight or obese
C. Always experience hunger
D. Both A and B

Answer: D. Malnourished individuals can come in all sizes.

People with malnutrition can be both underweight or overweight. Obese individuals can—and often do—miss out on important nutrients. The food you eat can give you energy but still lack key nutrients to keep you healthy. Protein is important, and if your body does not get enough, you can’t keep your muscles healthy.

Hunger, on the other hand, is defined as the feeling or sensation of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food. For a variety of reasons, older adults can lose their appetite and may not feel hungry, even though their bodies need food.

2. Malnutrition is an issue that:

A. Affects people in developing countries, not countries like the U.S.
B. Is a problem in the U.S., but really only for babies and children
C. Affects significant numbers of people worldwide and across the lifespan
D. Is a problem in the U.S., but only for low-income people

Answer: C. Malnutrition affects all groups of people.

Malnutrition is a significant problem across the world, including the U.S. While some of the causes may differ—lack of food, not enough of the right nutrients—too many individuals confront malnutrition.

Older adults are particularly at risk for malnutrition due to changes in our bodies as we age. We may experience decreased appetite, weight loss, decreased mobility, and limited access to healthy food, among other challenges.

Our body and nutrient needs also change as we get older, so it’s especially important to get the right amount of fluids, protein, and important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. It is also recommended to limit salt and saturated fats, which can contribute to conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

3. The following can be causes of malnutrition in older adults:

A. Limited income
B. Trouble swallowing, chewing, or poor dental health
C. Poor appetite
D. Living alone or feelings of loneliness
E. Weight loss
F. All of the above

Answer: F. Malnutrition can come from a number of factors.

All of the factors above, plus more, can lead to malnutrition. Sometimes, poor diets are caused by physical or mental changes. Other times, they are affected by our surroundings such as feeling alone or an inability to get to the store or prepare healthy meals. Often, the medication we take can affect our appetite or our ability to absorb key nutrients. And some medical conditions like dysphagia, which makes swallowing difficult or painful, may lead to malnutrition.

Additional causes can include:

  • Restricted diets (e.g., low sodium or low fat)
  • Lack of mobility
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Pricy medications that impact money spent on food

These factors can quickly build on each other and make the problem worse. For example, if you’re not getting the right nutrients, you might become more tired. Being tired might make it harder for you to shop, cook, and exercise. Together, these factors can cause you to lose lean body mass. Add a hospitalization with surgery into the mix, and the impact on your health can worsen.

4. To help prevent and treat malnutrition, older adults:

A. Need to eat more
B. Should know that malnutrition is an imbalance of nutrients
C. Should stop exercising
D. Need to choose carefully what they eat

Answer: B. You can’t prevent or treat malnutrition by just eating more.

Malnutrition is an imbalance of nutrients—meaning your diet may be high in calories but is low in nutrients that your body needs. Rather than just eat more, malnourished individuals need to carefully adjust their diet to make sure they’re getting everything they need. Physical activity paired with good nutrition can help combat malnutrition by increasing muscle strength and overall well-being. Making sure you get enough protein is very important to help with recovery.

5. Signs of malnutrition can include:

A. Muscle weakness
B. Fatigue
C. Increased illness or infection
D. Feeling irritable or depressed
E. All of the above

Answer: E. Malnutrition has many warning signs.

All of these factors can be a sign that you or a loved one is experiencing malnutrition. There are other signs, too, like unplanned weight loss, poor appetite, easy bruising, and even dental difficulties.

If you suspect that you or someone you know could be malnourished, here are some steps to take that can help:

  1. Speak to your doctor about your concerns.
  2. Understand the warning signs and follow these tips to avoid malnutrition.
  3. Watch our videos to see how to eat healthy.
  4. See if you qualify for programs that can help pay for food.

Educational information provided with support from:

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