When people hear the word “malnutrition” they tend to think of starving children in developing nations. However, malnutrition, or undernutrition, exists in every part of the world and can affect people of all ages. In fact up to 50 percent of patients in hospitals worldwide are malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. And malnutrition is not always physically obvious.
So, what is malnutrition? Malnutrition is simply a lack of proper nutrition (i.e. poor nutrition), a condition in which the body doesn’t receive the right nutrients in the right amounts.
“Malnutrition happens when a person doesn’t get the right nutrients to live a healthful life; whether that be from not eating enough or eating too much,” says , MPH, RD, a research scientist with Abbott. “Being malnourished causes an imbalance in our bodies and if it lasts long, it can have a significant impact on our health.”
Who Is at Risk?
While anyone can be malnourished, certain groups of people are at higher risk., children and those who are ill are more likely to be malnourished because of loss of appetite and picky eating. Up to one in two older adults are at risk of malnutrition. And malnutrition in hospitals is very common as patients battle illness, surgery and longer recoveries that impact nutritional health.
“Malnutrition in older adults is a critical concern. The risk of falls, infections, and other health complications increases with malnutrition. Identifying malnutrition and intervening early is key to keeping loved ones as strong as possible and reducing complications,” Sauer says.
Some of the signs of malnutrition include unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite, being sick, injured or having an underlying health issue.
Symptoms can include tiredness, lack of energy or strength and more. For loved ones, look out for looser clothes or rings—sometimes those are small signs that someone is losing weight because of malnourishment or at risk of malnutrition.
What Are the Complications of Malnutrition?
If left untreated, malnutrition can have serious complications. In the hospital, malnourished patients face increased complications, such as infections, slower recovery, a higher risk of infections at surgical sites and an overall higher risk of death. And, alarmingly, half of patients who fall in the hospital are malnourished.
How Can You Prevent Malnutrition?
With the right attention to nutrition you can maintain your health and lower you or your loved one's risk of malnutrition. Visit www.nutritionmatters.com for more information.