Eat, drink and live well

By Dr Niruban Ratnarajah


Losing your appetite is just part and parcel of getting older, right?

Wrong! Eating less should not be dismissed simply as ‘old age’. It can lead to malnutrition and make people seriously ill.

Similarly, not drinking enough can result in dehydration, causing falls and infections.

This week (March 14 to 20) is National Nutrition and Hydration Week, and it’s an ideal opportunity to highlight how important eating and drinking enough is, especially as we get older.

As a GP, this is something that I am acutely aware of. I recently saw a patient who had contracted several urinary tract infections in the space of three months. On one occasion, the infection was so serious that he was admitted to hospital.

I identified dehydration as the cause; the man, who was in his 70s and lived alone, was finding it hard to keep up his fluid uptake when his carers were not with him. Doctors, social workers, district nurses and his carers worked together to make sure that he could drink enough when he was on his own, and arranged for him to get ‘meals on wheels’.

Eating and drinking well can really improve the lives of many older people and this Age Concern booklet has lots of simple tips, to help you and those you know. For example, eating little but often can help if you can’t face large meals, or adding cream to mashed potatoes will increase your calorie intake.

Many of us would like to lose a few pounds, but being underweight can be as bad for your health as being overweight. Use scales to keep track of your weight, or that of a loved one, and look out for clothes getting looser which can be a sign of malnutrition.

And, no matter what your age, please contact your GP if you are concerned about losing weight or if you have experienced sudden weight loss.

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