The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Senior Health reports that approximately 76 million Americans get food poisoning, or foodborne illnesses, each year, and of those about 5000 die. Foodborne illnesses are caused by eating foods that are contaminated with bacteria, protozoa, or other microbials and viruses. The real tragedy here is that in most cases these foodborne illnesses are preventable simply by using proper food handling and storage methods.
Food poisoning is especially detrimental to seniors, causing them to be sicker longer with more acute symptoms. As people age, their immune systems slow down and are not as effective in combating illnesses. Older adults’ bodies do not produce as much stomach acid and their digestion slows, both making it difficult to eliminate bacteria that enter the system. Seniors are also more likely to be suffering from chronic illnesses, which affect the body’s ability to ward off disease. Additionally, older people’s abilities to smell and taste are not as acute as when they were younger, making it difficult for them to discern when food has spoiled. This makes them more likely to eat foods that may be contaminated.
For these reasons, it is critical that seniors and their caretakers are able to immediately identify the symptoms of food poisoning and seek proper medical care and treatment. It is equally important, or more so, that they follow safe food preparation and handling methods
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