No More Sugarcoating - How Nutrition Knowledge Must Deliver Food For Thought In Chronic Disease

When it comes to addressing elements of our health, rarely is there a more sensitive topic than what and how we eat and what this leads to. 

Food consumption is an area that is complex in its array of societal, moral and personal ramifications and opinions. 

Yet in order to facilitate the best knowledge environment for positive and lasting change to occur, a discourse on nutritional activity must be ignited in the public sphere. 

The aggregate lack of knowledge regarding nutrition and its effects on overall wellbeing is having significant impacts on quality of life for millions around the globe. 

The wider fallout from the lack of knowledge regarding healthy nutritional habits and activity is placing increasing pressure on the aged care system through higher rates of chronic disease. 

The repercussions of nutritional ignorance is causing substantial difficulties cross-sectionally, at personal, local and national levels. 

This is a problem of our time and in order to be tackled it must be addressed honestly, factually and openly.


Nutritional Necessity


The effects food and lifestyle have on the human body starts from infancy. 

This means the onus to care for and manage our food take starts early. 

Science has asserted that we as humans need to start looking after ourselves from a young age. 

A core component of a healthy life is nutritional intake and as habits start from as young as two years of age, responsibility and opportunity start with parenting.


Cycles Of Nutritional Lack Of Knowledge



Unfortunately studies have shown that people aren’t getting factual and verified nutritional information at key points in life, childhood, adolescence, points of health concerns and at the time they become parents. 

What medical experts are seeing is that health issues presented to them have commenced up to 60 years prior. 

In many cases chronic disease has had the opportunity to develop in severity for up to 6 decades.

Many patients, when at the point of being prescribed medication to manage conditions such as high cholesterol, are arguably within a window of opportunity for nutritional and exercise intervention.

Scientific study has displayed that when it comes to many chronic diseases, prevention is possible through the appropriate modification of diet and exercise habits. 

Yet statistical data shows that these methods aren’t being consistently implemented.

The methods of treatment and prevention for chronic illnesses over the past decades now sees the reality for those 85 and over to be highly medicated and struggle to manage sometimes as many as 5-6 chronic diseases.

Compounding the struggles of chronic disease and their demands on an already challenged aged care sector are the side effect of each medication and disease on the body’s nutritional state. 

Battling these effects over the course of 30 years makes for a tired physiology and sometimes mental state.


Championing Opportunity


A core problem within the chronic disease trend is the low numbers of people who view health junctions in their lives as a time to see a health professional such as a nutritionist and gain insight into nutritional and lifestyle opportunities. 

There is a need to educate in regards to nutritional needs and how they are altered by drugs diseases occurring within the body.

Problematically, by the time a resident reaches aged care they are likely to be already experiencing nutritional malnourishment. 

This in turn leads to the increasing situation where residents are struggling nutritionally, physiologically and mentally. 

Struggling from missed opportunities to rectify nutritional and activity habits at those interjection points throughout their lives.


A Cross- Sectional Lens


Arguably the problem of chronic disease needs to be viewed across medical and social parameters. 

There is a need to cease compartmentalising the solution to aged care alone, isolating responsibility to this sector alone is unlikely to fix the problem.

The issues contributing to chronic disease and surrounding it are in large part social. 

If we as a health and medical community, a social and familial society, don’t start perceiving ageing as a normal life event, the opportunities to correct problems and intercede when warning signs arise, the wellbeing for our future selves will continue to be impeded.


Chronic Disease And The Problem Of Ageism


Due in part to the stigma surrounding ageing and the negative perceptions of what is it to be elderly, many when faced with rising health concerns have sought to ignore or quickly address issues through medication. 

Opportunities for nutrition and activity modification are missed and chronic disease has seen a significant upward trend.

The rise of chronic disease is currently placing a colossal strain on aged care. 

Residents are presenting more problems than ever previously documented and the aged care system is in a consistent state of attempting to catch up. 

Problematically residents are entering aged care at a point of crisis which is demanding better communication and integration of health professionals across sectors than ever before.


Ageing Well



In order to address the trend of chronic disease the health sectors need to collaboratively analyse what ageing is and how we as humans are to do it well. 

Deeper scientific and factual understandings will likely also lead to greatly needed learnings in dementia and mental health and wellbeing. 

Experts and researchers are increasingly finding that lifestyle, exercise and diet have a crucial part to play in onset of dementia and the rapidity of deterioration, and our mental state is intricately linked to our physical state. 

These components must be a part of the discourse when it comes to the bettering of the ageing process and the health community’s input to it.

The catalyst for change lies not just in the prevention of chronic illnesses and the modification of public knowledge when it comes to lifestyle and dietary importance but also within the expected treatment of diseases.


Health Responsibilities


While residents are generally nearing the end of their lives, there is significant onus on aged care providers to solve and rectify decades long poor dietary and lifestyle choices. 

Due to the substantial duration of poor habitual nutritional and activity behaviors, deterioration is able to occur swiftly.

Many have spent lifetimes accumulating chronic diseases and as the consequences of age, disease and physiology present concurrently, the end can happen quickly. 

The expectation of providers to procure significant solutions to health within the last two years of life is a burden it shouldn’t shoulder alone.


Navigating Future Possibilities


In order to bring about lasting and sustainable change, a cross-sectional taskforce from the health, government and local communities needs to turn its gaze to the points in life where people first utilise medical and health services.

Where people seek help for mental and physically related health impairments, there is an intervention opportunity to assist in natural and simple manners. 

The positive altering of lifestyle habits to create and facilitate longer and healthier lives is an opportunity at the cusp of powerful change. 

And importantly, just because an individual is old, does not preclude them from lifestyle change, and the positive impact of healthy lifestyle choices.

Australian Aged Care Guild

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