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When less is not better...

A sunken face, loose clothes, dry skin and brittle hair - these are often accepted as presumed signs of aging, when in fact they are clear signs of malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when the energy and nutrient requirements of the body are not adequately met over a long period of time. In developed countries, the elderly are mainly at risk, as the causes of poor nutrition and diet are manifold. When aging, our hunger and appetite decrease. In addition to bloating and digestive problems, dental conditions and a reduced saliva production often complicate the task of eating. Furthermore, the body's ability to absorb nutrients is increasingly impaired. Decreasing physical performance and mobility additionally complicates grocery shopping and meal preparation. Other negative influences to our diet during aging include diseases and psychosocial factors. As a result of a combination of these risk factors, malnutrition often develops gradually in old age.

Consequences are fatal, as malnutrition leads to a lower quality of life and autonomy as well as an increased mortality with diseases progressing unfavorably. For this reason, the nutritional status of elderly people should be closely monitored, including regular weight checks at home. Treating physicians hold a special responsibility, as they should evaluate the nutritional status of a patient with every visit in order to identify negative tendencies over time. Yet the general high workload and ubiquitous staff shortages often stand in the way of these routine examinations. Automated and connected systems such as the seca 287 dp are able to relieve this stress. The device independently guides patients through the measurement process, automatically gathering data on their body size and weight. This data is then sent to a computer where it can be seamlessly inserted into a patient's electronic health record. However, a patient's body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) only offers limited information on their nutritional status. With age, muscle mass decreases continuously. But when a patient loses muscle mass excessively, it’s called sarcopenia. Factors that trigger sarcopenia include pathological processes, physical inactivity and malnutrition.

This disproportionate loss of muscle in the elderly affects not only their independence and quality of life, it also generally worsens their overall prognosis. However, this loss of muscle mass can be masked by overweight and obesity. Despite a significant reduction in muscle mass, weight can sometimes remain elevated or normal due to a high fat content. Solely weighing or identifying the BMI does not always reveal this so-called sarcopenic obesity.

Still, there is another way to accurately measure the changes in a patient's body composition: by using seca mBCA for a bio-impedance analysis (BIA). The percentage of muscle and fat mass, as well as total body water, can be noninvasively and precisely measured in just a few seconds, providing a precise assessment of the current condition of the patient’s nutritional status. With the BIA method, even the smallest changes in body composition can be detected and treated early. Due to the significant health relevance of malnutrition, prevention, regular check-ups and early detection play an important role in its treatment. While our energy requirements decreases with age, nutrient requirements remains the same - they can even increase. Elderly people should therefore pay attention to a calorie-reduced yet nutritious diet. Additionally, being overweight in moderation can have a protective effect, and a BMI of 24 to 29 kg / m² from the age of 65 is generally recommended. In the case of early or already existing malnutrition, decisive action should be taken and the nutritional status should be corrected as soon as possible. Regular check ups of our weight and general body composition allow for the precise management of our nutritional status, ensuring our long-term quality of life and health.

seca mBCA 525
seca 287 dp

Image 1  © “Robert Kneschke” / Fotolia.com 

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