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A Healthy Appetite at Any Age

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 4)

The average person has a difficult time turning down a bowl of their favorite ice cream, unless under the influence of a serious flu bug. Even then, itís usually not a hard sell! A loss of appetite, however, is very common in the senior citizen community. Caregivers must be aware of their loved oneís eating habits to ensure nutritional requirements are being met. Just as we canít imagine passing up that bowl of sweet dessert, your loved one canít afford to miss the most basic of meals.

Warning Signs             

Professionals at Mayo Clinic say that though the causes of malnutrition seem straightforward, they are often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. The American Association of Family Physicians says seniors with unintentional weight loss show a high risk for infection, depression and ultimately, early death.

Author Leanne Beattie writes that a 1990 survey by Ross Laboratories shows 30 percent of seniors skip at least one meal a day. Another research project found that 16 percent of seniors consume fewer than 1,000 calories a day. As caregivers, itís important to recognize the warning signs of this easily remedied problem before it becomes destructive.


The most obvious sign of appetite loss, thus malnutrition, is a physical effect on a personís body. Weight or hair loss, bruising and weakness are visible signs of distress. So are persistent and recurrent infections, fatigue, depression and poor skin integrity. As a caregiver, keeping an open eye to a loved oneís physical appearance and functioning is vital.

Another phenomenon, the prescription ďspreadsheet syndrome,Ē is a large cause of malnutrition in older adults. explains how medications alter a bodyís ability to absorb nutrients from food, and also impair its natural process of excreting minerals. The Web site lists some of these medications as cardiac glycosides, lipid-lowering drugs, diuretics, anti-inflammatory prescriptions, antacids and laxatives.


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