Nutrition plays a vital role in overall health for people of all ages, but especially seniors! Malnutrition can be a main cause of accelerated aging, and older adults are at high risk for nutrition related disorders. Seniors tend to experience problems with digestion, chewing, absorption of food, decreased appetite and more that contribute to their risk of malnutrition. Seniors with diabetes, dementia, and other conditions already have extreme nutritional needs, and it’s important to ensure that they are following a proper diet to maintain healthy bodily functions.
How Does Nutrition Affect Mental Health?
A poor diet can contribute to depression and anxiety, two things that aging seniors are already at high risk for. How do depression and anxiety correlate to diet and nutrition? The gastrointestinal tract is often called the “second brain”, meaning your gut and your brain are highly connected! Healthy eating promotes the growth and production of good bacteria and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin (chemicals that highly impact your mental health!). In fact, studies show that up to 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine comes from your gut!
When your body is producing the correct levels of these chemicals, it directly influences emotions and mood. A diet that is customized to your exact nutritional needs will allow your body to function properly and can help limit mood fluctuations and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
How Does Nutrition Affect Physical Health?
Making changes to promote a healthier lifestyle and diet can help to maintain an active and healthy body and has been shown to help prevent the development of diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition have a direct impact on physical health. Poor nutrition can cause significant weight loss and frailty; and this can lead to increased falls, balance issues, vulnerability to injuries and infections, slower recovery times, and more. Malnutrition can cause a wide array of physical bodily issues, but it also can have a direct impact on cognitive functions. A healthy diet is essential to proper brain function, and poor diet can impair memory and learning abilities, and has been associated with not only increased cognitive decline, but Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Along with a healthy food diet, drinking enough fluids throughout the day is extremely important. Oftentimes, the sense of thirst will decline with age. Hydration is a key element to allowing your body and organs to properly eliminate bodily waste, digest, self-regulate, maintain blood volume, and more! Dehydration can cause serous conditions and can lead to unnecessary visits to the doctor or hospital. Dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, confusion, weakness, and is extremely important to overall health.
An important factor to consider when reviewing seniors’ nutritional needs is what medications they are currently taking. Certain medications can limit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins. It’s crucial to evaluate the nutrition of your loved one to see if they might benefit from dietary changes or the addition of dietary supplements.
Learn More About Our Nutrition Education and Management Services!
Here at Shaker Place Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, we place great emphasis and importance on nutrition education and management! All resident meals are planned by our full-time registered dietitian to ensure that residents are receiving meals tailored to their nutritional and dietary needs. Not only are they expertly planned, but meals are also expertly and deliciously prepared by our in-house culinary chef. To learn more about our Nutrition Education and Management services, visit our website!