Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger, especially not our own parents or if you’re lucky to still have them around, your own grandparents. But when it comes to ageing, it seems we have an acceptance that becoming frail is just part of that package with 1 in 3 UK adults seeing frailty as an inevitable part of growing old and an overwhelming 94% of us expecting to suffer personal injury as a result.
Amazingly, it doesn’t have to be that way. And do you know why that is? Because frailty is largely caused by muscle loss and that is something we can actually do something about by nourishing our muscles appropriately from when (and even before!) we start losing muscle mass from age 40. Yes 40, not 60, because 40 is when it all starts heading south.
As someone whose mum has progressive Ankylosing Spondylitis, and has only just recently and very slowly recovered from a succession of falls, the idea of nourishing your muscles to prevent frailty is a big one, because nourishing your muscles also helps you RECOVER quicker from illness too.
So why is it when nutrition can play such an important role in the health of our elderly population, malnutrition is still so rife in the UK? Don’t believe me…here’s some facts that will blow your mind, recently shared by Kelly Grainger, Specialist Oncology Dietitian, The LOC:
- More than 3 million people in the UK are affected by malnutrition – that’s 1 in 10 people aged over 65
- 1 in 3 adults admitted to hospital are malnourished. Those people are likely to stay longer in hospital, and take longer to recover.
Confused? That’s because we’re not talking malnutrition that we see plastered all over the charity adverts for the starving children of Africa, we’re talking deficiency in protein, vitamins and minerals right here on our doorsteps, in our own population.
Despite the fact that nutrition can make such a HUGE difference in recovery from illness, Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The UK Patients Association, revealed recently that unbelievably 77% of over 65s admitted to hospital are given no nutritional support during or at discharge from hospital. In fact, alarmingly what is more likely to be the case is quite the opposite of nourishing their muscles by living off an unsatisfactory diet whilst during hospital or the harsh reality of a “Tea & Toast” diet thereafter.
So picture the scene – you are an elderly person who has just recovered from illness, and who has been discharged hospital after 10 days of bed rest where your muscles have already shrunk up to 1kg in just your lower limbs over that time, and then you have little or no appetite. Because you already have lower muscle mass, you take longer to recover, you lose strength and stamina, you start finding every day jobs like doing the food shopping or doing the laundry much harder.
And if you want to find out how much harder, have a look at this video of me wearing a Sarco-suit which shows just how hard life can be when you have experienced muscle loss as an elderly person….
Then to make matters worse, according to Grainger, older adults need less calories BUT they still need the same amount if not more vitamins, minerals and protein which means the types of food they eat are even more critical because they need to consume must be nutritionally dense…..and unfortunately tea, toast and biscuits just don’t cut it.
To be more precise, a 60 kg older adult requires 60 – 72g of protein and at least 10ug of vitamin D WHICH IS A LOT right?
And then if they don’t attain this then the impact can include reduced quality of life, lower mood, reduced ability to fight infection, slower wound healing, increased risk of falls and fractures, increased number of visits to GP, loss of independence, inability to carry out normal daily activities…the list goes on.
Getting an idea here of what a vicious circle this can be?
The question is then…what can we do about this and how can we ensure that we are nourishing the muscles of our elderly loved ones who need it most now, but also that we start being in the same mind-set to be strong and healthy ourselves in the future?
The answer is…we all need to be nutritional champions. But how? Well, that’s a whole other story and one I will be tackling in detail in a follow up blog post so watch this space!
*I have been sponsored by Abbott to become an advocate for my mum’s nutritional health, however all opinions are my own.