COLUMN: How to manage malnutrition by DCC public health manager Caroline Mackie

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As a society we’re slowly becoming more aware of the dangers of obesity and the need to manage our weight to keep fit and healthy, but for older people we need to think about the other end of the spectrum too.

It’s thought about 1.3 million older people living in the UK suffer from malnutrition - it’s a serious problem and not often talked about.

Losing weight as you get older is not inevitable, it isn’t a natural part of the aging process and it can have serious health consequences. Eating and drinking enough is important to stay healthy and independent in your own home. Malnourished older people visit their GP twice as often, experience more hospital admissions and have longer lengths of stay.

They also have an increased risk of infection and may take longer to recover from surgery and illness.

It can often be hard to spot if someone is becoming malnourished, especially if you see them regularly as changes may be small. Visual signs include rings becoming looser and clothes may become baggy.

Physically people may find it harder to keep warm and they may get frequent infections or find it hard to shake off colds.

If someone has been losing weight without meaning to then there are easy, small changes that can help. Try three small meals each day with snacks and milky drinks in between, Drinking is as important as eating. Try to drink plenty of fluid throughout the day.

If you are concerned about an older friend or family member’s unplanned weight loss encourage them to contact their GP. For more visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/malnutrition.

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