Have you noticed that food doesn’t taste as good as it used to? Or that you’re adding more salt at every meal? You may have even realized late in the day that you haven’t had much to drink.
What is going on? It can be part of the natural aging process. But it can also lead to serious consequences. If you’re becoming aware of any of these changes, talk to your doctor first to rule out medical causes.
And then start paying attention to your diet and hydration.
Although having some loss of taste and smell is natural as we grow older, there are other factors that can contribute, according to the Mayo Clinic. These causes can include:
Nasal and sinus problems, including allergies, sinusitis or nasal polyps
Certain medications, including beta blockers and ACE inhibitors
Head or facial injury
Radiation therapy for head or neck cancers
Our sense of taste is greatly influenced by our ability to smell. In fact, test this theory and hold your nose while eating a piece of chocolate. You’ll be able to recognize its sweetness but not the actual chocolate flavor because that is identified by a sense of smell.
Our taste bud cells are replaced every one to two weeks but after the age of 50, these cells become much less sensitive and begin losing their ability to regenerate. This can result in food not tasting as good as it once did.
Depending on the severity and your response, you could be at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes or stroke. Diminished senses can cause older adults to use a larger amount of salt or sugar as they try to enhance the food into something they can taste.
Losing your sense of taste and smell can also lead to a decreased appetite which can result in poor nutrition. But there may also be a significant influence on the quality of life. There have been some instances where it contributed to depression.
Generally, you can’t reverse the loss of taste and smell but some of the causes may be treatable. Depending on the reason, such as medication or a sinus condition, if you can alter or remove the underlying factor, you may see successful results.
Ask your doctor if there are any outside causes contributing to your loss of senses. Discuss if there might be any treatments or other suggestions to help you cope with this life change. You may also be able to experiment with different flavors and foods so you can still enjoy your meals.
As we get older, it’s also not uncommon for seniors to lose their sense of thirst. Or at least see it diminished. The message from the brain that you’re thirsty isn’t as strong as it once was. But this may lead to dehydration which can have serious complications, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney failure or a drop in blood pressure.
It’s very important to pay attention to the amount you’re drinking. If you suspect it might be less than normal, keep a log for a few days and measure in ounces the amount you’re receiving each day.
Take note of these signs and contact your doctor or take immediate action if you experience any of them:
Little or no urination
Dark or amber-colored urine
Dry skin that stays tented or folded when pinched
Irritability, dizziness or confusion
Low blood pressure
Rapid breathing and heartbeat
Cold hands and feet
One healthy aging tip for seniors is not to rely on a sense of thirst before having a drink. As you grow older, it is no longer a reliable sign of whether your body needs to be hydrated. In fact, by the time older adults may feel thirsty, they may already have signs of early dehydration, according to an article from the Cleveland Clinic, also noting that dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization for the elderly.
Adding to the increased risk is that older adults have less water in their bodies than when they were younger. Yet this is a problem that can be fixed. Even though it may be easier to drink when you feel thirsty, you can still monitor yourself to get enough liquids.
Just remember the tried-and-true advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
If you’re wondering how you’ll ever be able to do that, consider these tips:
Try water first. If you get tired of that, add fruit or a little flavoring.
Other liquids also count, such as milk or juice, but watch out for the sugar. Consider adding 50% water to your juice drink.
Drink caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee only in moderation.
Try foods that are high in liquid, such as cucumbers, celery, iceberg lettuce, watermelon and strawberries.
Break up your drinking throughout the day if drinking 8 ounces at a time causes bloating or uncomfortableness.
For those with medical conditions that need to monitor their fluid intake, check with your doctor first about how much liquid you should have daily.
We understand the changes that our bodies go through as we grow older. But we believe the best course of action is to get educated and then take the steps necessary to compensate.
Losing your sense of taste, smell and thirst, while annoying or frustrating, doesn’t have to be a loss in your quality of life or your ability to age well. Monitor for any side effects and have a little fun experimenting with seasonings and flavors.
It’s important that you take all the steps you can to make sure you are living the full and rich life that you deserve. And if you’re considering a move into an assisted living community, we hope you’ll call to discuss what Westminster at Lake Ridge Assisted Living has to offer. We think you’ll find the right support, encouragement, activities and social opportunities to help you live a meaningful life.
Call (703) 420-7105 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.