- The National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended a minimum number of servings of fruit and vegetables every day for a healthy lifestyle, with the number of servings based on a person’s age and sex
- It’s been shown people over 65 years often have better health if they carry a little extra weight and have a slightly higher body mass index
- Protein is essential for building, repairing and maintaining healthy bones and muscles in later life to prevent significant injuries later in life from falls
Researchers assessed 929 older women over the course of five years and found 39.4 percent of the patients had rapid weight loss, which was associated with a 49 percent increase in the risk of dying in the next 9.5 years.
This risk of dying increased to 87 percent in women who experienced rapid weight loss of more than 10 percent in a 12-month interval.
The understanding of factors that could contribute to rapid weight loss remains poor, with current treatments including correcting suboptimal dietary and physical activity behaviours.
New research by Edith Cowan University Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Cassandra Smith noted that abdominal aortic calcification, also known as AAC — a marker of advanced blood vessel disease, was linked to a higher risk of rapid weight loss in the 929 older women who participated in the study.
“Rapid weight loss, when it occurs in older women, can be a sign of bad things to come such as early institutionalisation, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and pose a higher risk for falls and fractures,” Dr Smith said.
When looking at the one-in-two women that had moderate to extensive AAC, they were 36 percent and 58 percent more likely to have rapid weight loss over five years.
Rapid weight loss is defined as a more than five percent decrease in body weight within any 12-month interval over five years of observations.
Following a hip fracture in Australia, 11 percent of patients are discharged to residential care and up to six percent of cases result in death.
Dr Smith said the explanations for the relationship between AAC and rapid weight loss remained unclear.
One theory is that AAC could limit blood flow to the gut, which could affect the absorption of nutrients.
“This has the potential to change how we treat those older individuals who present with rapid weight loss,” Dr Smith said.
“The traditional approach would be to increase protein and energy intake, but data is showing us that it could actually be vascular disease that is driving that weight loss, in which case using the traditional approaches may not help with body composition.
“Given the poor outcomes commonly associated with rapid weight loss in older adults, AAC may be a tool to identify those older women with [the] highest risk. It also opens the door to an opportunity for cardiovascular disease risk screening and to consider disease in other vascular beds or organs that may be influencing body composition.
“The next steps of this research are to replicate these findings in other cohorts, to perform studies with blood flow measures and the capacity to track macronutrient absorption.”
Your body lets you know when it doesn’t agree with certain foods or lets you know if you aren’t eating enough of something, so it’s important to ‘listen’ to your body and not ignore any symptoms that may appear.
Taste and smell can decrease as we age, so to counterbalance that you need to eat more flavourful or pleasant-smelling food to increase your appetite.
If you have a decrease in appetite or become unable to prepare your own food, it can result in a huge loss in vitamins, minerals and proteins the body needs to stave off disease and illness.
To learn more about the importance of nutrition, check out the Aged Care Guide to nutrition.
Has someone close to you lost a lot of weight in a short period? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know how you intervened. For more information, news and industry updates, subscribe to the newsletter and stay up to date on social media.