Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021 will be held from October 4th, 2021, to October 8th, 2021. The week honors and raises awareness about malnutrition and its repercussions on people’s health. Health care professionals and various organizations across the country come together to do this by:
1. Educating people about early detection and treatment of malnutrition
2. Educating people about the importance of discussing their nutritional status with their healthcare providers
3. Increasing health awareness in regards to a patient’s recovery
This Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021, let’s understand what it means to be malnourished, how to avoid it, and how to take care of your loved one who is malnourished.
What is Malnutrition?
It is important to first understand what malnutrition is this Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021. Malnutrition is both a health concern and a state of nutrition. A person faces either deficiency or excessiveness of energy, proteins, and other nutrients in their body. The problem often displays signs of an imbalance in people’s bodies. This imbalance can cause serious, adverse effects on one’s body tissues, shape, size and composition, functions, and final clinical outcomes. The term malnutrition includes both undernutrition and obesity.
Symptoms of malnutrition
Malnutrition is a challenging health concern to recognize at first. It is particularly complicated in people who are overweight and/or obese. The condition can happen gradually, making it difficult to spot the early signs. Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
1. Losing appetite
2. Weight loss - notified by clothes, rings, jewelry, or dentures
4. Loss of energy
5. Reduced ability to perform daily tasks
6. Poor concentration
7. Reduced physical performance, for example, inability to walk as fast or as far as usual.
8. Altered mood
9. Lethargy and depression
10. Poor growth in children
If you or anyone you know are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, ensure you visit a healthcare professional. Aim to take the proper steps this Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021.
Who is at risk?
Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021 aims at saving lives due to health concerns. Know if you are at risk or not!
The main types of people who are at high risk:
1. People with long-term health conditions like kidney diseases, diabetes, lung diseases
2. People over the age of 65, particularly those living in nursing homes and care homes
3. People with chronic conditions like dementia or cancer
4. People who abuse alcohol and drugs
Social factors can also increase the risk of malnutrition
2. Social isolation
3. Cultural factors, for example, certain hospitals and care homes do not provide their residents with proper nutritional food regarding their religious and cultural requirements. This increases the risk of malnutrition while a person lives away from everyday environments.
Physical factors can also increase the risk of malnutrition
1. Eating and swallowing might be difficult because of a stroke, or a painful mouth
2. Losing your sense of taste and smell, leading to a loss of appetite
3. Inability to cook your food can result in a reduction in food intake
4. Limited mobility
5. Lack of transportation
It is essential to realize that if older people cannot feed themselves, they can become malnourished. This makes them susceptible to various diseases and health concerns, making their hope to recover worse and impaired.
Malnutrition can affect every system in your body. It can result in an increased vulnerability to developing certain illnesses and complications with your health. In extreme cases, it can also lead to one’s death.
- The impaired immune system further reducing the body’s ability to fight any kind of infection.
- Excessively inactive with a reduced ability to work, perform daily tasks, and take care of oneself
- Developing pressure ulcers and blood clots due to inactivity
- Falling down
- Inability to cough, which predisposes to pneumonia and other chest infections
- Health failure
Impaired wound healing process
- Unable to regulate one’s salt and sugar intake, leading to overhydration or dehydration
- Depression, apathy, introversion, self-neglect, and physical and social deterioration
- Malnutrition can affect a person’s fertility. A pregnant woman developing malnutrition can be predisposed to health concerns like diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke in her child.
Impaired temperature regulation leading to hypothermia
Consequences in children and adolescents
- Failure in growth and development
- Stunted growth
- Delayed sexual development
- Reduced muscle mass and muscle strength
- Impaired intellectual development
- Lifetime risk of osteoporosis
Consequences of micronutrient deficiency
- Iron deficiency causing anemia
- Zinc deficiency causing rashes and reduced ability to fight infections
- Vitamin B12 deficiency causing anemia and nerve problems
- Vitamin D deficiency causing rickets (children) and osteomalacia (adults)
- Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy
- Vitamin A deficiency causing night blindness
Road to recovery
Recovery is an integral part of this health concern. Healthcare professionals emphasize the importance of the proper diet and exercise regime. Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021 resources by ASPEN aim to educate what should be done.
To improve the nutritional intake and overall health of your loved ones suffering from malnutrition, you can also try the following activities:
Encouraging healthy food intake
The best type of food one can consume is full of nutrients, like vegetables and fruits, grains, and lean meats. If you think your loved one is suffering from malnutrition, ensure they are intaking the right food. Reduce and limit their intake of solid fats, alcohol, excess salt, and sugar. Help them replace their less healthy food with healthier versions.
Eating healthy food items is an excellent way to gain extra nutrients and calories in between two meals. This is incredibly helpful for older adults who can feel full during meal times.
Restoring great flavors
If your loved one suffering from malnutrition is on a restricted diet, offer them extra herbs and spices in their food to restore their flavors. Bland food does not work well for people with malnutrition. One thing to remember here is to avoid the herbs and spices that are heavily combined with salt.
Your loved one will benefit from supplement shakes and other nutritional supplements. Talk to your loved ones’ health care provider about the same before doing so.
Even a few minutes of exercising every day can improve your loved one’s health and appetite. It also helps keep their bones and muscles strong.
Plan something social
Make your loved one’s mealtime a social activity. Ensure you are taking them on a walk around the block. You should also encourage them to meet their friends or neighbors for lunch or dinner.
Talk to their healthcare providers
Talk to your loved one’s healthcare providers. Even if they do not notice it at times, and you feel they are malnourished, bring it to their attention to create an enhanced nutritional plan.
This Malnutrition Awareness Week 2021, pledge to be better prepared and combat the problem of malnutrition in all people, children or adults. Professionals who work with such people have the same role as you do! There are plenty of ways to help your loved ones through this health concern. Ask questions, seek solutions, spread the word!
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