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When Do Tastebuds Change in the Aging Process?

When Do Tastebuds Change in the Aging Process?

The human palate is remarkably adaptable. We can get used to almost any kind of food, no matter how vile it may seem at first. We may lose some of our ability to taste sweet, salty, and bitter flavors. This is because the tastebuds themselves break down and diminish in number as we get older. In addition, the nerves that carry information about taste to the brain may also become less sensitive.

But as we age, our taste buds change, and what we once enjoyed might now make us gag. Why does this happen, and is there anything we can do about it?
 

What Causes Loss of Taste?

Loss of taste can have a variety of causes. One common reason is tastebud damage. Tastebuds are constantly rebuilt, and as we age, the process of rebuilding tastebuds slows down. This can result in a dulling of the senses, and many older adults find that their food doesn't taste as good as it used to.

Illness can also lead to tastebud damage, as can certain medications. In addition, loss of smell can also cause loss of taste. The two senses are closely linked, and without the ability to smell, food can seem tasteless. Finally, certain neurological conditions can interfere with the ability to taste.

Is It Normal for Taste Buds to Change as we Age?

Just as our bodies change as we age, so do our tastebuds. It's normal for tastebuds to become less sensitive as we get older, which can lead to a decreased ability to taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors. So yes, it is a natural occurrence for our taste buds to change as we grow older. In addition, the number of tastebuds decreases with age, and the tastebuds that remain become larger. As a result, aging adults often need more intense flavors in order to taste them. In some cases, medications can also affect taste buds, making food taste bland or metallic.

 

How Does Aging Affect Our Senses?

As we age, our bodies change in many ways. One of the most noticeable changes is in our senses. We may not be able to see, hear, or taste as well as we used to. This is because the cells in our body break down and don't work as well as they used to.

Tastebuds, for example, are very sensitive cells that are constantly being replenished. However, as we age, the tastebuds on our tongues die off and are not replaced as quickly. This is why some older adults find that they can't taste food as well as they used to. The same process happens with the cells in our eyes and ears, which is why some older adults have trouble seeing and hearing.

Although these changes are natural, there are things we can do to help keep our senses sharp. For example, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help keep our tastebuds working properly. Additionally, staying mentally active by reading, playing games, and socializing can help keep our eyes and ears sharp. There are also many assistive devices available that can help us compensate for any loss in our senses. By understanding how aging affects our senses, we can take steps to keep them sharp and prevent
 

 When Do Our Taste Buds Begin Changing?

Studies show that between the ages of 40 and 50, the number of taste buds decreases resulting in a loss of mass which is vital for these tastebuds to work. After the age of 60, the ability to distinguish specific tastes such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods becomes a challenge. It is not until the age of 70 that the sense of smell begins to fade which contributes to the overall gradual loss of taste.

As a result, we may find that foods that once tasted delicious now seem bland and unappetizing. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - in fact, many people find that their tastebuds become more refined as they age, and they're able to appreciate subtle flavors that they couldn't taste when they were younger.
 

What are the Different Types of Taste Loss and Their Symptoms?

While most people experience some degree of taste loss which is a natural occurrence as we age, some may develop more serious conditions that can severely impact their quality of life. From a caregiving perspective, it's best to identify the different types of taste loss and their symptoms so as to be aware of early signs that can help our elderly clients in the long run. Here are some of the most common types of taste loss and their symptoms:

Age-Related Taste Loss: Also known as presbycusis, age-related taste loss is the most common type of tastebud decline. It usually starts around middle age and progresses slowly over time. Symptoms include a decreased ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors.

Disease-Related Taste Loss: Many diseases can cause tastebud decline, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Symptoms will vary depending on the underlying condition but may include a diminished ability to taste sweetness or increased sensitivity to bitter flavors.

Medication-Related Taste Loss: Some medications can interfere with tastebud function, particularly those that are taken for a long period of time. Common offenders include high blood pressure medications, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs. Symptoms may include a reduced ability to taste saltiness or sweetness, or a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
 

Caregiver's Role in the Prevention of Taste Changes Related to Aging

So what is the role of caregivers in preventing taste changes that can be a risk to elderly clients? Caregivers can keep track of their dietary needs while monitoring their sugar and salt intake, furthermore preventing high blood pressure problems and heart issues. This also gives caregivers the opportunity to incorporate activities for their clients that can prevent any drastic taste changes related to aging.

Good enough, there are precautionary measures that help prevent patients or loved ones from undergoing drastic taste loss. Here are some helpful tips that you can incorporate into your elderly loved one's routine:

Dental Hygiene - Often overlooked, dental hygiene is a huge factor in maintaining healthy taste buds. Brushing and flossing regularly can lower the risk of gum disease which can impact the quality of our taste buds.

Use Herbs and Spices - Herbs and spices create flavor without the risk of increasing your blood pressure the way salt does. Look into recipes that incorporate a plethora of spices to provide an alternative to salt-heavy foods. It's also best to look into low-sodium options such as citrus juice or vinegar that can still pack a punch in flavor without contributing to high blood pressure and heart issues.

Get Some Exercise - Going out and keeping active while maintaining a healthy diet can overall prevent the loss of taste. Maintaining a good physical routine paired with a balanced meal encourages higher taste sensitivity in the elderly. As a caregiver, it is best to incorporate physical activities in tangent with a great meal plan!

 

Call BrightStar Care of Bedford today!

Contact us today to learn more about our skilled nursing care, medical staffing, and our caregiving services! Our office is located at 601 Riverway Pl, Bedford, NH 03110, United States. You may also call us at 603-637-4646. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Topics: Senior Care