When it comes to leading public health concerns, obesity takes the front lead for most people but now there is possibly another contender for the top spot – malnutrition. In the UK, undernourishment in the elderly is quickly becoming a growing concern with estimates suggesting that at least 3 million people in the UK are malnourished. Age UK sees malnutrition in the elderly as a cause for great public concern as malnutrition is a contributing factor in the development of illness as well as being a result of illness.
For those wondering why so much hype is being created around malnutrition in more mature age groups, it would be helpful to remember that there are serious consequences to being depleted in adequate nutrition such as the risk of increased hospital admissions. The heightened risk of developing illnesses as a result of a poor immune system and prolonged recovery times – all of which puts life expectancy at a very low level.
In order to understand the problem of malnutrition, looking at the causes of this life-reducing condition is a good place to start.
Causes of malnutrition in the elderly
There is no one simple reason for the growing numbers of malnourished persons in the age group of 65 and older. The fact that there are numerous causes is probably why tackling the problem has become so complex.
On the list of contributors to the malnutrition problem in the elderly are:
- Mobility issues
- Reduced appetite
- Reduced income
- Dentures no longer fit.
- Physical tiredness
- Tooth loss
It may come as a surprise to some to find tooth loss on the list of factors that cause malnutrition but considering that a large percentage of persons over the age of 65 do not have the full set of permanent teeth intact or suitable dental prostheses such as Dental Implants Harley Street, tooth loss is an accepted cause.
To gain deeper insight into this causal factor, it is important to acknowledge a few facts. One such fact is that a dental arch with one of a few teeth missing present biting and chewing challenges. The inability to grind down food into minute bits or the painful discomfort experienced when chewing food, will make it less likely for the person to want to eat and raises the possibility of said individual becoming malnourished.
What can be done about malnutrition
There is one approach in dealing with malnutrition that has found favour with many industry experts – the food-first approach. The approach is fairly simple to implement which basically requires health professionals and loved ones to focus on encouraging malnourished older persons to eat more. This can be done in numerous ways that include:
- Simplifying access to ready prepared food.
- Consuming nutrient-dense liquids like soups.
- Choosing more high-protein foods.
- Getting dental treatment for missing teeth.
Organising a home delivery food service can be quite helpful in making sure that the elderly have reliable access to properly-prepared wholesome meals. Another handy solution would be to have a steady supply of frozen meals that can be quickly heated at mealtimes.
The experienced team of capable dental practitioners at Harley Street Dental Clinic can offer further information on how to access suitable dental prostheses for patients who need to replace missing teeth.