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As you get older, you may start to lose weight, either through illness or loss of appetite. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important, and there are steps you can take to gain weight healthily.
If you’re underweight or have lost weight suddenly or for no obvious reason, see your doctor to ensure there is no underlying medical cause for this weight loss.
Even if there's nothing wrong with your health it's quite common for older people to lose their appetite. You may be underweight simply because you're not eating enough and your diet doesn't give you sufficient energy or calories.
Being underweight can be especially serious for older people. It increases your risk of health problems, including bone fracture if you fall. It weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infections, and it increases your risk of being deficient in important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals .
However, you can take steps to improve your diet and get the energy and nutrients you need.
As we get older, it is common for our appetite to get smaller and we may not feel like eating.
If you're underweight and your appetite has decreased, it’s still important to get all the energy and nutrients that your body needs. There are three ways to do this:
Try these following healthy yet still high-energy meal and snack ideas:
Add more calories from healthier foods to your diet to help you gain weight:
Check out these easy-to-make healthy recipes.
If you're struggling to be interested in food or you've lost the motivation to eat, try to eat with friends or family as often as possible. Lunch clubs are also a great way to make mealtimes more social.
If you find it difficult to prepare foods, try the following tips:
Physical activity is particularly important for older people. It can help you stay healthy, mobile and independent.
Being active helps keep your heart healthy and lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke – even if you’re underweight. You may also feel hungrier the more active you are.
To find out how much physical activity is recommended and what counts as activity, see:
The amount of physical activity you should do may be different from other people your age if you're underweight, have mobility problems or a disability. Your doctor or practice nurse can advise you about this.
If you struggle to cook for yourself or to shop for food, consider getting outside help.
You may be entitled to have hot and frozen ready-made meals delivered to your home (often called meals on wheels), which is provided by your local council’s social services. There is usually a charge for the service.
Find out more about getting meals at home.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.