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The Importance of Potassium Intake for Seniors

Senior nutrition is different than the dietary needs of other age groups. In general, as we age and our bodies change, the way we process food and the effects they have on our bodies also changes. We all know that we can't eat the same foods as we did in our youth, but in addition to an upset stomach, the consequences of poor nutrition as we age can be much more dire.

Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte that is an essential component in all tissues, cells and organs. As an electrolyte, it has the ability to conduct electrical impulses through our bodies – how amazing! We need it for normal nerve function, heart rhythm, energy levels and brain function, just to name a few. Interestingly enough, as an essential mineral, potassium is not produced within our bodies which means we have to seek out the ingestion of potassium. Bananas are normally the first food people think of when discussing potassium, but it is also found in animal products (meat, fish, dairy), as well as many vegetables and fruits like broccoli, potatoes, apricots, kiwi and melons.

The culinary team at Evergreen Senior Living includes certified dietitians who create menus and supply food options for seniors that target all their nutritional needs. Creating menus that address the various dietary needs of different residents, including their potassium intake is a priority to ensure each person receives the proper nutrition needed for their individual care plan.

For the elderly population, physiological changes that are a normal part of aging affect the potassium levels in their bodies. Kidney function decreases as we age, and the body's urine output increases as a result. At the same time, the body's mechanisms which control reabsorption and excretion of nutrients no longer work properly, and excess potassium can remain in the urine. Other medical conditions or changes in gastrointestinal health can affect proper absorption of potassium. Older persons often take more medications than other age groups, and these medications can also alter the potassium levels within the body.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends that seniors have a diet of at least 4.7 grams of potassium each day. An interdisciplinary care approach at Evergreen Senior Living communities ensures that our culinary, pharmacy and wellness teams all work together to create healthy, nutritionally-balanced menu choices for our residents that follow the recommended guidelines while also taking the individual nutritional concerns of each person into account.

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

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