This paper highlights nutritional health as an important aspect of geriatric care. Geriatric care involves managing health issues among elderly people. Mainly, it encompasses prevention and treatment programs when managing health care needs. Nutritional health is at the center of such programs. For example, the proper management of a chronic illness depends on the need to adopt healthy nutritional habits.
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Similarly, poor disease management may stem from poor nutritional habits. Mainly, changes in lifestyle patterns have brought issues of nutritional health to the limelight. This focus has drawn attention to the role of nutritional health in end-of-life care and public health.
Different people and institutions hold differing views concerning nutritional health definitions. MNT (3) says, “Nutritional health investigates the metabolic and physiological responses of the body to food and diet, including the role of nutrients in the cause, treatment, and prevention of disease” (3). The Medical News Today adopts a more direct definition of nutritional health by explaining it as a science that helps people to lessen their health problems through dietary interventions (MNT 3). Therefore, nutritional health involves understanding how poor nutrition habits cause health problems and the possible health remedies that most people could get from adopting the right nutrition habits.
This paper highlights nutritional health as an important aspect of geriatric care. Its influence on other health care fields and its role in health care management also highlight its importance in the field. Overall, this paper shows that nutritional health is an important topic for health care practitioners and young people alike. Furthermore, evidence shows how nutritional health influences people’s dietary habits throughout their lives. Therefore, this paper argues that it is an effective preventive measure for reducing the disease burden among elderly people. By extension, evidence also shows that nutritional health is important for everybody (especially people outside the nursing field). Nonetheless, this paper first shows how nutritional health is important in the nursing field, and for all people aspiring to work in the field.
Why Nutritional Health is Crucial to the Medical Field
Nutritional health influences almost all health care facets. MNT (3) affirms its influence in dentistry, nursing, psychology, and other aspects of medicine. Indisputably, nutrition exists in all aspects of life – conception, growth, and death. Therefore, nutrition is at the center of all things that include life and biochemical processes (living things depend on energy sourced from food and nutrition).
Based on the need for proper nutrition in human health, scholars advise students to study at least one aspect of nutrition in their education curriculum (University of Michigan 2). Although there has been some contention regarding which aspects of nutrition to include in school curricula, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition explained why it is important to include obesity, diet, diabetes, pregnancy, and lactation in medical curricula (as important aspects of nutritional health) (MNT 5). Comprehensively, the important role of nutritional health in human life and its significance in education shows its relevance in modern living.
Why is Nutritional Health Important in Geriatrics?
Tucci (1) predicts that by 2030, the growing numbers of baby boomers in America will more than double – to about 70 million people. This population would comprise about 20% of the US population. About 80% of this population lives with a chronic condition (Tucci 1). Medics have diagnosed about half this number with two or more chronic conditions (Tucci 1). These statistics show worrisome demographic shifts (characterized by increased incidences of chronic illnesses) that require immediate nutritional interventions. Nutrition plays an important role in understanding such health issues because elderly people who take proper nutrition and drink many fluids stand a better chance of avoiding these chronic diseases and leading a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, they have a lower probability of experiencing the need to live in an elderly home (end-of-life care). However, malnutrition and over-nutrition issues underlie their main health concerns.
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Many elderly people do not eat healthy foods. Tucci (9) says this group of people often suffers from poor appetite, inability to prepare food, and food insecurity. Reduced physical activity, overreliance on medications, and reduced cognitive abilities (among other factors) often complicate these issues. Particularly, the risk of malnutrition is high for low-income adults because they are food-insecure. Therefore, they lack the proper nutrition to live a healthy lifestyle in their elderly years.
Similarly, their low-income status makes them vulnerable to health care challenges, such as poor access to health care services. Comparatively, studies done by Tucci (9) showed that many adults from food-secure regions suffer from low intakes of energy foods. Their health significantly deteriorates as a result. Therefore, some health problems experienced in geriatric care stem from malnutrition. Consequently, understanding the role of nutritional health, in this field, is important in improving health care quality.
Over-nutrition in Older People
Globally, health care practitioners have used the standard body mass index (BMI) to evaluate over-nutrition incidences among elderly people. Most medical literature use the same tool to evaluate if a person is overweight or not (Ahmed and Haboubi 216). Mainly, this analysis is significant for prospective health professionals in western countries because obesity and overweight incidences among older people are high (in these countries). For example, Ahmed and Haboubi (216) explain that “In 2000, 58% of US citizens aged ≥65 years had a BMI of ≥25 and the prevalence of obesity (BMI > 30) in the US increased 36% from 1991 to 2000” (Ahmed and Haboubi 216). The rate of increased mortality among older people (resulting from obesity) does not match the same measure among younger people. However, overweight problems may cause death through diabetes, hypertension, and similar diseases. These diseases outline common health complications that health care practitioners encounter in geriatric care. Other health complications that fall within the same category include “symptomatic osteoarthritis, increased rates of cataracts, mechanical urinary and bladder problems, and sleep apnea and other respiratory problems” (Ahmed and Haboub 216). Since nutritional health plays a vital role in managing these illnesses, it also outlines an important aspect of their treatment. This way, it is useful in geriatric care.
Why Should People Outside the Nursing Field Care about Nutritional Health?
Nutrition education is highly important to people of all ages because several volumes of nutrition messages (from newspapers, television, magazines, and other sources of information) confuse people about effective nutritional strategies. Such information could also be misguiding. Understanding the importance of nutrition education can help to evaluate the reliability of these pieces of information and help people to apply their nutritional knowledge to their lifestyles. Therefore, learning about the benefits of a healthy diet is not only important for the elderly.
For example, students can also benefit from such knowledge to improve their well-being. For example, several studies have shown that nutritional habits learned at an early age are difficult to change, later in life (University of Michigan 2). Similarly, it is less effective for people to learn proper nutritional habits at a later stage in life because they would not completely change their lifestyle habits. Therefore, without proper nutritional guidance, young people could develop poor nutritional habits, carry them into later stages in life, and suffer a high risk of developing chronic life diseases.
Thus, although nutritional health plays an important role in understanding the health needs of elderly people, it also helps to enlighten people about the dangers of under-consumption (or over-consumption) of certain foods. Particularly, Barzegari and Ebrahimi (1012) say elderly people are not the only beneficiaries of this information. They add that young person also stand to gain from nutritional health information because it improves their self-image (Barzegari and Ebrahimi 1012). For example, such information would help young people manage self-image issues that stem from weight concerns (University of Michigan 3).
Particularly, many young people (adolescents) are often concerned about self-image issues that arise from adolescence and the resultant physical body changes. For example, many young women desire a “lean” body, and they prefer to limit their calorie intake to achieve this goal. However, nutritional health research cautions them from adopting such strategies because of the lack of essential nutrients inhibits bodily functions (Barzegari and Ebrahimi 1012). From this background, many medical studies support the importance of inculcating healthy nutritional practices in their adolescent years (University of Michigan, 3). This way, they would uphold the same practices in their adult life. This view supports the need to adopt preventive programs to curb future health problems (particularly in end-of-life care).
Furthermore, this finding explains why many stakeholders in the education sector consider home economics as an important addition in educational curricula (University of Michigan 3). Therefore, nutritional health is not only beneficial to health care practitioners and their duties as caregivers, but all people as well. It provides the public with important knowledge concerning basic nutritional needs for survival. Similarly, this health focus provides the youth with adequate information to avoid harmful dietary practices that would affect them in the future.
Nutritional health plays a vital role in understanding the efficacy of geriatric care. Elderly people suffer an increased risk of malnutrition, the decline in functional status, and reduced cognitive functions (among other factors), which affect their nutritional balance. However, this paper shows that nutritional health not only helps to take care of the elderly but young people as well. Therefore, it acts as a proactive measure for reducing the burden/demand for geriatric care in the future (because healthy nutrition habits, learned early in life, would manifest in future good health). This paper also establishes the link between chronic diseases and nutrition education as a tool for understanding the role of nutritional health in personal development. A person’s health and physical education also depend on the same understanding.
Overall, nutritional health plays a significant role in raising public awareness regarding health issues. In this spirit, the main goal of this research focus is to educate people on the importance of leading healthy lifestyles through dietary measures. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand the need to inculcate positive nutritional attitudes in society because it promotes positive health. Indeed, given that public health is an important goal in nursing, understanding why nutritional attitudes are relevant to promoting good health provides the platform to increase the breadth of knowledge regarding the same issue.
Ahmed, Tanvir and Haboubi Nadim. “Assessment and Management of Nutrition In Older People And Its Importance To Health.” Clin Interv Aging 5.1 (2010): 207–216. Print.
Barzegari, Ali and Ebrahimi Mohsen. “A Study of Nutrition Knowledge, Attitudes and Food Habits of College Students.” World Applied Sciences Journal 15.7 (2011): 1012-1017. Print.
MNT 2013, What is nutrition? Why is Nutrition Important? Web.
Tucci, Jennifer. Nutrition Education and the Elderly Nutrition Program of Seattle-King County: Reviewing Current Research for Program Recommendations, Washington, DC: University of Washington. Print.
University of Michigan 2013, The Importance of Food and Nutritional Education. Web.
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