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Keefe Memorial Hospital | Malnutrition: Recognizing the Often Hard-to-Spot Signs
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Malnutrition: Recognizing the Often Hard-to-Spot Signs

Malnutrition is a serious health issue among older adults. Malnutrition in older adults can lead to various health concerns, including a weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections, poor wound healing and muscle weakness. The signs of malnutrition in seniors can be tough to spot, especially in people who don’t seem at risk, but identifying an issue as soon as possible can help prevent serious illness and complications later. Here’s what you can do to keep an eye out for malnutrition:
Observe and record eating habits. This will help identify if you are getting the nutritious, whole foods needed for optimal nutrition.

Monitor weight. If one is malnourished, they will lose both fat and muscle mass. Monitoring weight daily and keeping an eye on how clothing fits will help you identify possible problems.

Review medications. Many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption—if you’re noticing weight loss or disinterest in food, and you have started new medications, raise this issue with your healthcare provider.

In general, signs and symptoms of malnutrition include:
- Loss of fat and/or muscle mass
- Breathing difficulties
- Often feeling cold (when the inside temperature is not cold)
- Longer than usual healing times for wounds
- Longer than usual recovery times from infections and illnesses
- Chronic fatigue and irritability

By knowing the warning signs of malnutrition, you are better equipped to help avoid and address poor nutrition. If you notice a warning sign, visit with your healthcare provider immediately. Raise the issue immediately so your healthcare team can work together to address any possible problems.

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