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Seniors & Healthy Eating:

6 Challenges to Overcome

I have always considered myself to be reasonably healthy. I am active physically and don’t have too many bad eating habits. Granted, I am a bit too fond of peppermint ice cream, but let’s move on. Quickly. Earlier this week I had my annual physical and I passed with flying colors, except my blood pressure is a bit high and I need to lose 15 to 20 pounds. Oops.

Of course, it could be worse. Much worse. I am not grossly overweight nor am I encountering multiple health problems like diabetes or heart-related issues. I do, however, need to make a few changes, particularly with regard to my diet. In a 2016 article for Healthline, Tara Gidus cited a study that “according to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, 1 in 4 older Americans has poor nutrition.”  Let’s stop here and take note that “malnutrition puts you at risk of becoming overweight or underweight. It can weaken your muscles and bones. It also leaves you vulnerable to disease.”

Healthy eating is a concern for everyone, but even more so for seniors, because as we age our needs change. Some of these changes are simply part of growing older, while others are due to other factors like medications. Today I will be sharing six of those challenges with you.

Medication(s) Steve Plogsted, a clinical pharmacist with Nutrition Support Service of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in 2014 noted five foods that negatively interact with medications. Also, “many medications affect taste, smell, or salivation, and lead patients to change their patterns of food or fluid intake.”

Changes in taste Sharon Basaraba, a well-known aging expert, noted in 2016 that seniors’ taste buds do not regenerate as quickly as they once did, resulting in fewer taste buds. Fewer taste buds mean foods will taste different and could lead to problems of poor nutrition.

Changes in smell Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.of the Mayo Clinic noted that not only does smell change after age sixty, but there can be other causes like smoking, certain diseases or head trauma. Again, changes in smell could lead to poor choices in diet and nutrition.

Chronic Illness Tanvir Ahmed and Nadim Haboubi, writing in Dove Medical Press, showed how chronic illnesses like asthma or congestive heart failure (CHF) could lead to poor nutrition in seniors.

Nutrient absorptionDavidson and Thomson reported that changes in the intestinal tract, brought about either by aging or medication, affect how the body absorbs nutrients. This can, in turn, lead to problems in diet and nutrition.

Dental issuesRebecca Stanski and Carole A. Palmer noted in 2015 that some tooth decay is natural. The inability to chew certain foods, with or without dentures, can lead to poor food choices and later health problems.

Healthy eating is a concern of everyone, not just seniors. Older adults, however, are often more susceptible to issues associated with poor eating habits. Age, lifestyle choices, heredity, and other factors all play a part. The challenges I researched online and have shared are just a few of the issues seniors face in maintaining healthy eating habits. Once the issue(s) has been brought into the open, the next step is to devise a food regimen that will combat the issue and allow the senior the greatest health and independence possible.