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[6 min read] Managing the nutrition needs of elderly patients in primary care
Can you adequately manage the particular nutrition needs of your elderly patients? Although nutrition is important throughout the life span, it is especially foundational for healthy ageing. The consequences of inadequate nutrition in ageing patients include decreased immune function, poor skin integrity, and loss of independence.
Physiological and psychosocial barriers to good nutrition tend to arise as patients get older. Polypharmacy – the concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient – can also increase nutritional risk with the potential for food-drug interactions and unintended side effects. Polypharmacy affects about 40 per cent of older adults living in their own homes.
Although energy needs decline with age, requirements for certain nutrients such as protein and vitamin D increase, making a nutrient-dense diet even more important. Yet, an increasing percentage of older patients are overweight and undernourished.
Most adults over the age of 65 have at least one nutrition-related chronic disease. Among the most common are type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or a combination of these. While overly restrictive diets are contraindicated, healthy eating patterns underpin both primary and secondary prevention of these chronic conditions.
Food and diet greatly affect a patient’s quality of life in addition to their physical health, so both the physical and psychosocial aspects of healthy ageing should be adequately promoted and managed.
With 15 per cent of the Australian population now aged over 65, it is vital that primary care practitioners can adequately address their nutrition needs in order to provide comprehensive healthcare.
Source: Ellis, A.C. (30 March 2019.) Nutrition and Healthy Aging. Healthy Aging. Springer. p 263-274.
Want to learn more about managing your patients’ nutrition concerns in general practice? Upskill in Medical Nutrition Management.