Unwanted weight loss in old age is common. If the pounds drop without your intervention, this is almost always a call for help from the body and should be taken seriously. The risk of malnutrition is high because unwanted weight loss usually means that the body is not getting enough nutrients to support itself. Depending on the living situation and state of health, 10-60% of those over 65 are affected by malnutrition.
In addition to the loss of body fat, the breakdown of vital body protein is incredibly dangerous. Because protein is the basic building material of all cells in the body and ensures that organs, metabolism, and muscles function usually, malnutrition should therefore be counteracted as early as possible. Statistically speaking, seniors with good nutritional status live longer and have a higher quality of life than their malnourished fellow human beings.
How does unwanted weight loss occur?
There are many reasons for unwanted weight loss in old age. Digestive problems, infections, hospital stays, loss of appetite, loneliness and depression, poor diet, difficulty swallowing or pain often lead to unintended weight loss. Weight loss is also a common symptom of chronic illness.
Whatever the cause, weight loss should not be taken lightly. Because the earlier it is stopped, the better for health and quality of life.
There is a risk of slipping into a vicious cycle of malnutrition. The interaction of loss of appetite and reduced food intake leads to an increasing loss of body substance and a progressive deterioration in the state of nutrition and health. If people lose more than 5% of their body weight in 3 months or more than 10% in 6 months without any action on their own, they should urgently discuss this with a doctor.
Muscle loss in old age
Unwanted weight loss is often associated with the breakdown of body protein. In most cases, not only the muscles are affected, but also the immune system and the functions of various organs. For example, the immune system suffers from the protein deficit. But the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body can also be impaired in the event of a protein deficiency and muscle breakdown.
As early as the age of 30, the body begins to break down muscles, i.e. body protein gradually. A sedentary lifestyle also promotes this muscle breakdown. If the muscle wasting in old age leads to falls, injuries or restrictions in everyday life, then one speaks of “sarcopenia” in technical jargon. The further this progresses, the more the quality of life suffers.
When muscles are lost, a person becomes more and more immobile and is, therefore, more and more dependent on the help of outsiders. Especially with older people, there is then the danger that they can no longer adequately take care of themselves. Buying and preparing food is becoming more difficult. Meals are then more and more often skipped, or the diet becomes one-sided. If the joy of eating is then lost, there are usually significant nutrient deficiencies. There is a threat of an undersupply, and ever-larger protein gaps accelerate the breakdown of the muscles.