The impact of malnutrition is serious. Luckily, it can be preventable

October 5, 2023
October 4, 2023
Grandfather dancing in the living room with his grandson

Malnutrition can take away many things, chief amongst them being independence and quality of life. The good news? It can be preventable, and if spotted early and treated, people can keep living life to the fullest. Knowledge is key…

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Healthy Ageing a priority of its work between 2016-2030 with the aim of enabling older people to develop and maintain good wellbeing and quality of life so that they can remain functioning members of society.

This means that there’ll be a spotlight on conditions such as malnutrition, which, sadly, is a big cause of frailty, loss of independence and a lower quality of life.

“It’s a condition that can be severely underestimated as the wider population don’t really know much about it, or realise that it’s so incredibly common amongst older Australians,” says BlueCare’s Allied Health Statewide Dietetic Lead, Caitlin Fulford.

“That means that many people also don’t realise how severe the impact of malnutrition is on older people,” she adds.

“It can be a preventable condition, too, which is why we need to get the awareness out there about the causes and the impact of malnutrition.

“The more we all know about it, the more cases will be picked up early and the more we’ll see older people able to live healthy, active lives for longer.”

Here are the main ways it can impact quality of life:

  • Disease related malnutrition (for example cancer) can lead to rapid muscle wastage. But age-related malnutrition can also result in progressive muscle wastage which is slower but still severe. And this results being less able to perform normal daily activities.
  • It causes a decrease in bone mineral mass which, together with reduced muscle mass plus a loss of coordination, means there’s a higher risk of falls. This also accelerates the age-related risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Immunity – which is already adversely affected by old age - becomes severely impaired, increasing the risk of infection and complications alongside delayed recovery from things like illness and surgery, and even increased mortality.
  • Wound healing and tissue recovery are impaired – which means older adults can end up with healing disorders and chronic wounds, which decrease their quality of life.
  • The development of ‘geriatric syndromes’ can increase including: incontinence, vertigo, frailty, cognitive impairment, sleep issues.

As it’s such a huge risk to our health and quality of life, we should all know the causes, the signs and the impact of malnutrition so that we can help.

The easiest way to do that is to educate yourself and read as much as you can. Keep checking our website for regular information and updates on malnutrition and other tips.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone else, read more about how our Allied Health Dietitians can help, and call BlueCare on 1300 258 322 to request additional information and support with accessing a Dietitian.

Don’t ignore the signs. Take action now.

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