Vitality

Top Nutrition Tips For Aging Adults

Aging and its effects (including decreased sensitivity, poor dental health, memory loss and physical difficulties and vision loss) are inevitable in life. But what matters is how we can handle those as we grow older. That is why it is important now more than ever to take our nutrition seriously and adjust for optimal healthy aging. 

"A majority of the diseases that older people suffer are as a result of lack of proper diet," per World Health Organization (WHO). This means that to manage changes in our bodies over time, it is important that we control and manage our diets. With these in mind, health and wellness website One Green Planet has shared the following nutrition tips that will help adults like you keep up with an aging body every year:

Nutrient Intake 

To stay as healthy as possible as we age, it is vital to consume the proper nutrients. Doing so helps us keep our organs and systems functioning and allows us to do at least most of the things we love to do. Here are the following nutrients to take to avoid a hospital trip:

  1. Omega Fatty Acids - Omega-3, omega-6 and the lesser-known omega-9 fatty acids have been linked to improved heart health, better mental health, promotion of bone health and decreased dementia risk and are known to fight inflammation. On top of that, they have been "found to slow down the progression of Macular Degeneration (AMD) — a condition that leads to poor vision," along with reduced "risk of Alzheimer’s disease," according to the National Council for Aging Care. The first two fatty acids are not produced by the body, and so must be sourced from food such as salmon and other fatty fish, olive and avocado oils, almonds, walnuts and soybeans. For omega-3 intake, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends a minimum of 250 to 500 milligrams combined EPA and DHA (both forms of omega-3) daily for healthy adults, while the recommended dietary allowance for ALA (another form of omega-3) is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women. As for omega-6, intake of it is recommended based on the ration to omega-3. One recommended dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 4:1 or less.
  2. Calcium - Known for building strong bones, calcium helps keep the nerves and muscles working and plays a role in heart health. In fact, it turns out that the amount of calcium we get as kids and teens protects us from bone loss (especially in the form of osteoporosis) later in life. In addition, a calcium deficiency, together with a vitamin D deficiency, can lead to a disease known as rickets. This condition "softens the bones and causes bow legs, stunted growth, and sometimes sore or weak muscles," according to KidsHealth. The WHO recommends that people over the age of 50 consume 1,200 of calcium daily — equivalent to four cups of fortified orange juice, milk, soy or almond milk. Calcium is normally found in dairy products, but is also sourced from dairy-free, plant-based food such as leafy greens, broccoli, almonds and dried figs.
  3. Iron - A mineral found in all living things, including plants and animals, iron is an important component of hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the blood. When one suffers from an iron deficiency (anemia), your body cannot produce hemoglobin and makes fewer red blood cells. As a result, the tissues and organs inside will not get the oxygen they need. Oftentimes caused by chronic disease, vitamin B12 deficiency, folate deficiency or simply not getting enough iron from a diet, anemia is quite common in elderly adults and generally presents itself with fatigue, weakness and dypsnea as well as pallor of the skin. Aside from meat and some seafood, iron is also found in hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, leafy greens, some fruits and cacao beans and raw cacao.
  4. Dietary Fiber - Though a carbohydrate, fiber is harder for the body to break down, bulking up the stool and fermenting within the digestive system so it feeds the body and creates rhythmic digestion. Fiber has two types: soluble and insoluble, and we need both of these. High fiber consumption is also linked to lower cholesterol levels and prevention of heart disease and diabetes. As the human body ages, the digestive system slows down, the walls of the gastrointestinal tract thickens and the contractions are slower and fewer, which may lead to constipation. Fiber-rich foods such as those found in most fruits, certain vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts and seeds, in addition to dark chocolate, help "promote proper digestion by moving food through the digestive tract," providing a wonderful, natural and healthy way of avoiding age-related constipation.
  5. Vitamin D - Known as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is essential for overall health and to maintain strong bones, especially among aging adults and the elderly. The vitamin also helps nerves carry messages between the brain and every part of the body and is integral to the immune system's ability to fight bacteria and viruses. The HHS and the Food and Nutrition Board recommend that adults up to 70 years old consume around 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D while those above 70 consume around 800 IU. Normally obtained through ample sunlight, vitamin D is also found in mushrooms but can be obtained through supplements and fortified foods such as soy milk, almond milk and oat milk as well as some breakfast cereals with preferable less sugar.
  6. Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to increase consumption of as you age. It is also difficult to source from a plant-based diet because it is largely found in animal-based food. Fortunately, it can be found fortified in most milk alternatives, breakfast cereals and juices and is also sourced from nutritional yeast. This nutrient aids in nerve and blood cell health and helps in making DNA. In addition, it also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia that makes people feel tired and weak. Absorption of vitamin B12 into the body becomes more laborious among seniors, oftentimes resulting in a deficiency of this vital nutrient. One study found that up to 62 percent of adults over 65 years old have "less than optimal" blood levels of vitamin B12. There are currently no recommended quantities of vitamin B12 specifically for seniors. That said, adults over 18 years old are recommended to consume at least 2.4 micrograms daily. However, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider if you think you have a deficiency. One study of over 100 older adults found that 500 micrograms of the vitamin normalized B12 levels in 90 percent of the participants.
  7. Potassium - Vital for essential bodily functions such as blood pressure, muscle contractions, nerve impulses and pH balance, potassium is not just a mineral but is also an electrolyte that conducts electrical impulses throughout the body, according to Healthline. Unfortunately, this nutrient is one that older adults do not get enough of. A survey found that many older Americans do not take the recommended 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, causing blood pressure issues, kidney stones and even reduced bone strength. (The WHO and some other countries like the U.K., Spain and Mexico recommend 3,500 mg daily.) A potassium deficiency can also cause extreme fatigue, muscle spasms, weakness, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and nausea. Potassium is easily found in many plant foods, including avocados, oranges, bananas, yams, beet greens, whole grains, edamame, soybeans and nuts.
  8. Magnesium - Known for its calming and stress-reducing effects, magnesium is important for many bodily processes, including muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and production of bones, protein and DNA. Like in the case of vitamin B12 and potassium, it becomes more laborious and harder to absorb this vitamin as the body ages. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average daily recommended amount of magnesium changes depending on the gender. Men over 18 are recommended to consume at least 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium daily, while for women, at least 310 to 320 milligrams. Like potassium, magnesium is easy to find in plant-based food such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds and whole grains, in addition to bananas, coffee and cacao.
  9. Vitamin C - Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps you avoid illnesses since it is great for boosting your immune system. This highly-recommended nutrient acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, and is necessary for production of collagen, a protein that is needed in wound healing. In addition, it also helps absorb iron from plant-based food and also in forming and repairing red blood cells, bones and tissues. The vitamin is present in all plant-based food, including all leafy greens, vegetables and fruits, along with chestnuts, apple cider vinegar and superfood berries such as goji berries and mulberries. For the elderly, the need for vitamin C increases as they become more and more vulnerable to illness and diseases. On top of that, the vitamin helps prevent macular degeneration, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. The recommended daily dose of vitamin C for elderly males is 90 milligrams, while 75 milligrams for women.

Drink Lots Of Water

Water is essential for a healthy body. It not only prevents dehydration but is also used by the body in all its cells, organs and tissues in temperature regulation while maintaining other bodily functions. Since water is constantly lost through breathing, sweating and digestion, it is important to keep yourself hydrated every day. In fact, Tufts University recommended that seniors drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Although the ability to conserve water decreases as the human body ages, it is still important to drink plenty of water.

Avoiding Certain Foods 

Getting the nutrients you need and proper hydration are important, but it is also a good idea to avoid the following foods as you get older:

  • Certain foods high in acid, fat and citric acid can exacerbate one form of gastritis, a condition that causes lower stomach acid. High-calorie food must also be avoided. 
  • Because the immune system weakens as you age, it is a must to avoid food that may cause infections, poisoning or sickness, such as raw eggs, unpasteurized products, sushi and other raw foods, in addition to deli meats and sprouts.
  • It is also recommended to steer clear of grapefruit since it can intensify the effects of certain drugs and make those drugs dangerous. 
  • Last, but not the least, food with high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates should be avoided. Aging makes it more difficult to regulate weight, blood pressure and heart health, and sugar and refined carbs can aggravate these issues.

Eat More Plant-Based Food 

Once you are old enough, start reducing your meat intake and focus more on plant-based sources. This helps deal with chronic inflammation, heart diseases, mental health issues, nutritional needs and more. Also, lessen your intake of dairy since it is also linked to health problems such as acne, hormonal imbalance and some cancers such as prostate cancer.

Aging Baby Boomers are contributing to a large population of 65-and-older citizens. Pixabay Public Domain

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