Diagnosis & Tests

You may be worried about whether you, or a person you care for, are not eating properly. If you are concerned, speak to a healthcare provider. In addition to ruling out depression or dementia, the provider should evaluate your nutritional status by doing the following things:

  • Giving you a physical examination.
  • Asking you about your diet and eating habits, and if there have been any changes. Your intake will be compared to the recommended daily intake (RDA) for important nutrients and micronutrients.
  • Checking your weight or body mass index (BMI).
  • Reviewing your medications (prescription and over-the-counter remedies). Many medicines affect appetite, digestion (including constipation), and nutrient absorption. Many medications may also interfere with taste and smell.
  • Having you fill out a nutrition questionnaire (such as the Mini Nutritional Assessment).
  • Ordering certain lab tests.
  • Asking about your daily routine and ability to carry out regular functions.
  • Asking you questions about your memory and mood.

Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)

You may be at risk of malnutrition if you have unintentionally lost 10 pounds or more, or if you have lost 10% of your body weight, in the last six months. A Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 18.5 kg/m2 may mean you are underweight. A BMI lower than 17 may mean that you have undernutrition. Losing too much lean body mass is associated with poor wound healing, infections, pressure sores, and lower functional ability.

Meanwhile, a BMI of 30 or more means you are obese. Poor diet quality and a lack of vitamins and minerals are relatively common among obese older adults, especially obese older women living alone. 

Last Updated August 2020