The Spanish Society of Internal Medicine (SEMI) has issued a warning regarding the high rate of malnutrition among patients admitted to its services. According to SEMI, approximately 30% of patients become malnourished during their hospital stay. Additionally, the society revealed that sarcopenia, a condition characterized by loss of muscle mass and strength in older adults, affects 33% of those hospitalized in Internal Medicine.
Dr. Arántzazu Álvarez de Arcaya, SEMI’s patient relations coordinator, emphasized the importance of strength exercise and adequate protein intake in combating sarcopenia and regaining muscle mass and function. This is particularly crucial for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The presence of malnutrition and sarcopenia in such cases can lead to worse health outcomes, longer hospital stays, increased chances of readmission, and higher mortality rates.
Dr. Álvarez de Arcaya emphasized that nutrition and exercise are fundamental for a healthy lifestyle and preventing future health issues. In terms of exercise, she noted that strength exercise is more recommended than high-intensity workouts, as muscles play a significant role as an endocrine-metabolic organ, especially among sick individuals.
SEMI also highlighted the vulnerability of elderly patients due to social isolation and depression, even without serious health problems. Loneliness was identified as a social determinant linked to poor diet, nutrition, and decreased motivation for physical activity. Studies have shown that up to 71% of older hospitalized patients are at risk of malnutrition or already malnourished, which increases the risk of mortality. Additionally, about one-third of older patients are physically inactive, leading to muscle mass loss and weight gain.
Considering these alarming statistics, the SEMI called for the active participation of patients in education strategies and identifying their primary needs. Dr. Ana Maestre, coordinator of the SEMI Health Education Working Group, emphasized the importance of integrating patients into group activities to achieve better health outcomes and a higher quality of life.
This warning from the SEMI serves as a wake-up call for healthcare providers and policymakers to address the issue of malnutrition and sarcopenia among hospitalized patients effectively. Implementing strategies that prioritize nutrition, exercise, and patient engagement can lead to improved health outcomes and better overall well-being for patients.