Experiencing a change in appetite is common as you age. In fact, you may find that as you get older, you’re suddenly eating less than you used to. That’s because the metabolism naturally decreases as you age. This, combined with the fact that seniors are generally less active than they were when they were younger, make a loss of appetite in seniors considered to be a normal part of aging.
However, that doesn’t mean getting the proper nutrients and vitamins you need to stay active and healthy is any less important.
Causes of Appetite Loss in Seniors
There are a number of reasons our appetites change as we age. And as previously mentioned, many of them are not a cause for concern, including:
- Changes in sense of taste. It’s not uncommon for seniors to experience a change in their sense of smell and their sense of taste. This can make foods you once enjoyed less appealing. And may even change which foods you naturally crave.
- Side effects from medication. Many commonly prescribed medications, such as those used to treat thyroid conditions can suppress your appetite, or cause nausea. If you’ve recently changed medications and noticed your appetite is no longer what it once was, be sure to speak with your doctor.
- Issues with teeth or dentures. Ill-fitting dentures and mouth pain in general make even the idea of eating less appealing. This is why it’s important for seniors to regularly visit their dentist and address any mouth pain with their dentist right away.
But in some cases, a lose of appetite could be a sign of a more serious, underlying condition, such as:
- Infection of the mouth or throat. Gum disease and other conditions of the mouth can make eating feel impossible. Again, this makes regular dental visits extremely important for seniors.
- Hepatitis or chronic liver disease. Loss of appetite is one of the first signs of both hepatitis or chronic liver disease.
- Depression. Feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness can all lead to a decrease in appetite. Additionally, studies show that seniors who eat alone, are not only more likely to experience these feelings, but make less healthy food choices than those who dine with others.
- Kidney failure. Nearly 25% of seniors experiencing kidney failure cite reduced appetite as a main symptom.
- Certain types of cancer. Particularly ovarian, pancreatic, lung and stomach cancers are known to cause a decrease in appetite.
- Chronic pain. Chronic pain and fatigue can also reduce your desire to eat.
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Particularly as these conditions progress, it’s not uncommon to experience a lack of appetite and weight loss.
While a loss of appetite is generally nothing to worry about, be sure to discuss any changes in your eating habits with your doctor to rule out any potentially serious conditions.
Seniors and Nutrition
Proper nutrition is essential at any age. And for seniors, can help provide the fuel they need to stay active, healthy and independent. Even if your appetite has decreased, it’s important for seniors to eat at least three meals each day.
Additionally, be sure to incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken, fish and dairy in every meal.
Ensuring Seniors Eat Healthy at Western Home Communities
Sometimes a loss of appetite stems from a lack of interest in cooking. At Western Home Communities, we help seniors take a break from cooking by providing three nutritious, home style meals each day. Our community dining options ensure you never have to dine along. And our chefs are ready to meet any special dietary restrictions you may have. This is all in addition to the many other services and amenities we provide seniors to help them stay happy, healthy and independent as they age. Learn more about Western Home Communities, our living options and our services for seniors.