Many Americans don't get the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis, with most falling short when it comes to minerals like calcium or vitamin A. For seniors, the quest for proper nutrition can be even more difficult.
Changing bodies, changing appetites and a constant stream of confusing nutritional guidance on television and online can make it seemingly impossible to find the right balance for your diet. If you're struggling to eat right or think you're not getting the right nutrients to care for your body, seeing a registered dietitian might help.
Registered dietitians are medical providers who are experts on nutrition. Before they can receive the RD credentials, individuals have to achieve a bachelor's degree in dietetics, complete a supervised internship and pass an examination.
Some things that RDs do include:
• Help people understand their unique nutritional needs and plan lifestyle changes accordingly
• Support individuals as they make moves to better nutrition
• Help people with chronic conditions understand how those issues change their nutritional needs and what to do about it
• Provide the education and information people need to approach food for health while also still enjoying food in their lives
• Establish plans to help people lose weight if necessary in a healthy, stable and maintainable approach
Seniors might see a registered dietitian for numerous reasons. In many ways, the sheer amount of data about nutrition available today makes it difficult to make the right choices.
Older adults — or anyone else — that go online to get information about the best foods to incorporate in their diet are commonly faced with disparate and opposing advice. For example, is milk good for you? It seems like a simple question, but a few minutes digging into Google often leaves you with more questions than you started with.
A registered dietitian can help you cut through the clutter of online information from unverifiable sources to find the information that is most meaningful for you.
Here are three other reasons older adults might want to see a registered dietitian.
What your body needs at 70 is not what it needed at 40 or even 60. Nutritional needs change as we age, and you might need more or less of certain types of foods to maximize the functionality and health of your body.
Unfortunately, life-long habits are hard to break. And older adults might have spent years eating a certain way that worked well for them. Making a change to those habits may require outside assistance, especially if you're not sure where to start.
You could take a trial-and-error approach to eating as you age. That would involve trying out different things and seeing how they work. The results if you try the wrong things could be stomach woes, fatigue and overall lower quality of life — or more serious issues.
Instead, seniors who want to eat right as they age can talk to an expert to get answers backed by data and experience.
Your age doesn't just impact what you should eat. How you eat can change how you age — for better or worse.
Dietitians, especially those with expertise in geriatric nutrition, have a deep understanding of the relationship between food and body functions. That includes aging.
A dietitian may help you understand how to eat to:
• Help protect cognitive function or reduce or slow aging's impact on brain function such as memory or problem-solving
• Reduce inflammation in your body, which can lead to reduced pain, better respiratory function and increased range of motion
• Positively impact some types of pain, such as those that come from digestive issues
• Support higher levels of energy so you can live a more vibrant lifestyle
• Reduce issues surrounding sleep
• Improve mood and overall mental health
It's important to realize that dietitians don't bring magic cure-alls. However, food plays such an important role in your entire wellness that attending to what you eat can and often does make a huge difference.
A third reason to see a dietitian is for nutritional support in managing a chronic health condition. Some chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, come with a need to overhaul your lifestyle and diet. A dietitian provides the expert help you need to do that.
Dietitians, even more than physicians or nurses, can answer questions about what you should or shouldn't eat. They can also work with you to develop plans for getting the right levels of nutrition if you have a condition that makes it harder for you to eat as much as you used to.
Dietitians are just one type of health professional. If you're dealing with medical conditions, consider making them a part of your care team. And remember that residents of assisted living communities such as Bethesda Gardens in Monument, CO, have access to services for nutritional support, including delicious meals and snacks prepared daily.