Role of Nutrition & Health in the Elderly
As the population of elderly people rises, and the costs associated with medical care rise, the role nutrition plays in remaining healthy as a person ages is being shown to be more important than was earlier thought. Many factors contribute to the level of nutrition a person receives. Elderly people are often sedentary, home-bound, chronically ill, taking medications. These and other elements in their lifestyle affect the way their bodies utilize and metabolize their food. These and other factors affect how, when, where, and how much they eat. Malnutrition in the form of over or under eating is one of the most pervasive and potentially debilitating problems experienced by the elderly of the United States (Murphy, Everett, & Dresser, 1992, p. 184). Caloric intake in the United States tends to decrease with age. The risk of the elderly consuming too few nutrients in their diet is real.
The diets of the elderly vary across the spectrum from good to bad. Some generalizations are possible. In large group studies, it has been shown that the consumption of several nutrients is below the recommended levels. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 were among the first nutrients in which deficiencies were discovered in the elderly population (Murphy, Everett & Dresser, 1992, p. 185). Further studies of longer terms have included zinc and copper in the category of nutrients of which the elderly do not consume enough (Murphy, Everett & Dresser, 1992, p. 185).
Debilitating disease in the form of cancer, heart disease and arthritis have all been shown to be affected by diet. The American Heart Association continues to offer dietary guidance aimed at reducing total fat intake (Murphy, Everett & Dresser, 1992, p. 185). Fat intake is implicated in a number of debilitating diseases. High blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer all have been linked to high levels of lipids in the blood system. Excess fat intake is al…