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Mild Cognitive Impairment

Some forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. However, some people have more memory problems than other people their age. This condition is called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. People with MCI can take care of themselves and do their normal activities.

MCI memory problems may include:

  • Losing things often
  • Forgetting to go to events and appointments
  • Having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age

Memory problems can also have other causes, including certain medicines and diseases that affect the blood vessels that supply the brain. Some of the problems brought on by these conditions can be managed or reversed.

Your health care provider can do thinking, memory, and language tests to see if you have MCI. You may also need to see a specialist for more tests. Because MCI may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, it's really important to see your health care provider every 6 to 12 months.

At this time, there is no proven drug treatment for MCI. Your health care provider can check to see if you have any changes in your memory or thinking skills over time.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Muscle Disorders

Your muscles help you move and help your body work. Different types of muscles have different jobs. There are many problems that can affect muscles. Muscle disorders can cause weakness, pain or even paralysis.

Causes of muscle disorders include:

  • Injury or overuse, such as sprains or strains, cramps or tendinitis
  • A genetic disorder, such as muscular dystrophy
  • Some cancers
  • Inflammation, such as myositis
  • Diseases of nerves that affect muscles
  • Infections
  • Certain medicines

Sometimes the cause of muscle disorders is unknown.

Neurologic Diseases

The brain, spinal cord, and nerves make up the nervous system. Together they control all the workings of the body. When something goes wrong with a part of your nervous system, you can have trouble moving, speaking, swallowing, breathing, or learning. You can also have problems with your memory, senses, or mood.

There are more than 600 neurologic diseases. Major types include:

  • Diseases caused by faulty genes, such as Huntington's disease and muscular dystrophy
  • Problems with the way the nervous system develops, such as spina bifida
  • Degenerative diseases, where nerve cells are damaged or die, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease
  • Diseases of the blood vessels that supply the brain, such as stroke
  • Injuries to the spinal cord and brain
  • Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
  • Cancer, such as brain tumors
  • infections, such as meningitis

Nursing Homes

A nursing home is a place for people who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for at home. Most nursing homes have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day.

Some nursing homes are set up like a hospital. The staff provides medical care, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy. There might be a nurses' station on each floor. Other nursing homes try to be more like home. They try to have a neighborhood feel. Often, they don't have a fixed day-to-day schedule, and kitchens might be open to residents. Staff members are encouraged to develop relationships with residents.

Some nursing homes have special care units for people with serious memory problems such as Alzheimer's disease. Some will let couples live together. Nursing homes are not only for older adults, but for anyone who requires 24-hour care.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Nutrition for Older Adults

What is nutrition and why is it important for older adults?

Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet so your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Nutrients are substances in foods that our bodies need so they can function and grow. They include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age. It gives you energy and can help you control your weight. It may also help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

But as you age, your body and life change, and so does what you need to stay healthy. For example, you may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. Some older adults need more protein.

What can make it harder for me to eat healthy as I age?

Some changes that can happen as you age can make it harder for you to eat healthy. These include changes in your:

  • Home life, such as suddenly living alone or having trouble getting around
  • Health, which can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself
  • Medicines, which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or take away your appetite
  • Income, which means that you may not have as much money for food
  • Sense of smell and taste
  • Problems chewing or swallowing your food
How can I eat healthy as I age?

To stay healthy as you age, you should:

  • Eat foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories, such as
    • Fruits and vegetables (choose different types with bright colors)
    • Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
    • Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that has added vitamin D and calcium
    • Seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
    • Beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Avoid empty calories. These are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol.
  • Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat. You especially want to try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Trans fats are processed fats in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. You may find them in some store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.
  • Drink enough liquids, so you don't get dehydrated. Some people lose their sense of thirst as they age. And certain medicines might make it even more important to have plenty of fluids.
  • Be physically active. If you have started losing your appetite, exercising may help you to feel hungrier.
What can I do if I am having trouble eating healthy?

Sometimes health issues or other problems can make it hard to eat healthy. Here are some tips that might help:

  • If you are tired of eating alone, try organizing some potluck meals or cooking with a friend. You can also look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility.
  • If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems
  • If you are having trouble swallowing, try drinking plenty of liquids with your meal. If that does not help, check with your health care provider. A health condition or medicine could be causing the problem.
  • If you're having trouble smelling and tasting your food, try adding color and texture to make your food more interesting
  • If you aren't eating enough, add some healthy snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories
  • If an illness is making it harder for you to cook or feed yourself, check with your health care provider. He or she may recommend an occupational therapist, who can help you find ways to make it easier.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

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