Association between lifestyle and health variables with nutritional status of the elderly in the Northern Region of Ghana
With fertility and mortality steadily declining, a remarkable shift in the world’s population age structure toward older ages is expected in the coming decades. The elderly population is at particular risk of malnutrition. The presence of malnutrition could be the result of, and also lead to, social, medical and other health problems. Currently, Ghana has the highest proportion of persons aged 60 years and above in sub-Saharan Africa and little attention has been given to this segment of the population. A cross-sectional study of 400 (177 males and 223 females) individuals who are 65 years and above was carried out in urban areas in the Northern Region of Ghana to evaluate the nutrition and health situation of the elderly. Socio-demographic and economic data, dietary patterns, state of health, level of physical activity and lifestyle variables were collected using a questionnaire. Anthropometric data (weight and height) were measured using standard procedures. More than half of the participants (56.2%) were married and living with their spouses. These were mostly the males. Most of the participants (93.5%) had no formal education while over half of them (57.2%) relied on family members and friends for their financial needs. Slightly over half (53.2%) of the subjects had fair health status with females experiencing more disease conditions than males. Almost all the respondents were independent in performing all daily activities. Using Body Mass Index (BMI) in kg/m2 as an indicator for nutritional status, 18.0% of the participants were underweight, 60.5% had normal weight and 21.5% were overweight. Alcohol consumption and sight problems were found to have significant negative association with BMI (p=0.007 and p=0.005, respectively). Malnutrition is, therefore, an important public health burden among the elderly in the region and therefore deserves attention. The formulation and implementation of a national policy on the elderly and nutrition education targeting the whole populace is urgently needed in Ghana to ensure healthy aging.
Keywords: nutritional status, elderly, health, lifestyle, dietary intake, body mass index
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