Seniors Get Nutrition Tips

ST. MARYS — Seniors in the county received a visit from a registered dietician to speak with them on nutrition education and food and medication safety on Wednesday.

Rhonda Davisson, the nutrition care coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging and a registered dietician, spoke to seniors at the Auglaize County Council on Aging about nutrition education.

“She’s going to be talking about nutrition,” ACCA Outreach Specialist Trena Chiles said. “That’s what our wellness topic is this month.”

Davisson began by noting the handful of topics about which she was going to speak.

“I think of three things when I go out to visit seniors when I talk to them about nutrition and things, three things that are really important,” Davisson said. “One, food safety — as you get older, you’re more susceptible to having problems getting diseases, bacteria from your food. Another is drugs — you take a lot of medications and interactions that happen with that. And then the third things is the nutrition screen.”

Davisson began by passing out a health checklist for the nutrition screen, where she went through each item that could affect a person’s nutritional health and asked the seniors to total up their points if they qualified: I have an illness or condition that made me change the kind and/or amount of food I eat, I eat fewer than two meals a day, I eat few fruits and vegetables or milk products, I have three or more drinks of beer, liquor or wine  almost every day, I have tooth and mouth problems that make it hard for me to eat, I don’t always have enough money to buy the food I need, I eat alone most of the time, I take three or more different prescribed or over-the-counter drugs a day, without wanting to, I have lost or gained 10 pounds in the last six months and I am not always physically able to shop, cook and/or feed myself.

“This is called the Determine Your Nutritional Health checklist,” Davisson said. “And what we use this for, doctor’s offices use it, it’s like a national tool they use for everyone. It’s not just for people who are older, but I think it’s a good tool that’ll help figure out where you are with your nutrition.”

Next, Davisson spoke on food safety.

“You want to aim to keep your food safe,” she said, noting to watch dented cans and food past their sell by dates. “I know people hate to throw it away, but I always say when in doubt, throw it out. That goes for your refrigerator, too.”

Davisson stressed eating hot food when it’s hot and making sure it’s hot enough and not letting food sit out for a long time and keeping cold food in the refrigerator.

“You don’t want to purchase things in the store that are past their purchase by or use by dates,” she added. “You want to get things that are going to last a long time.”

She also encouraged, when preparing raw meat, to clean off the surface when finished with hot, soapy water.

“When you go to make a salad, you could contaminate that salad,” Davisson added.

Lastly, she noted food and drug interactions, encouraging people to write a list of all the medications they take, including vitamins and over-the-counter medications.

“If the doctor doesn’t remember, which happens, they don’t always tell you, or the pharmacist doesn’t happen to think to make sure to bring it out — because of modern medicine we have so many more drugs out there to help people, which is a good thing, but there’s also things that go along with it,” Davisson said, noting a food-drug interaction is when the food a person eats affects the ingredients in the medication. One of note now, she added, is grapefruit juice decreasing the effect of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Also, Davisson noted three types of drug interactions: Drug effects on nutritional status, an example of which would be the abuse of antacids leading to phosphorus depletion, which can eventually cause a vitamin D deficiency and lead to weakened bones; food effects on drug absorption, an example of which would be that the calcium in dairy products can decrease the absorption of certain antibiotics; food effects on drug utilization, an example of which would be of liver and green, leafy vegetables, also known as high vitamin K foods, that can decrease the effectiveness of anticoagulants/blood thinning medication like Coumadin because of the blood clotting properties of vitamin K.

Davisson also stressed when taking medications, to take them with a full glass of water, avoiding alcohol when taking any medication, keeping the pill intact unless instructed by a pharmacist and avoid mixing medicines into hot drinks/avoid drinking hot beverages when taking medications.

“Make sure your doctor has a complete list of your medicines, and that includes things you take over the counter, herbal medicines, vitamins, all those things,” Davisson said.

“You got to make sure your doctor knows about all that because there are some issues with vitamins and minerals that affect drugs. And make sure your pharmacist knows. Go up there with your list, that’s being proactive for your health.”

All of the topics of the day go together, she stressed.

“It is so important watch what you’re eating, what you put into your body is what your going to get out,” Davisson said. “It’s really important to keep an eye on your nutritional health, keep your food safe and to make sure you know how your drugs are going to affect how you’re eating and each other.”