While aging is inevitable, many of the degenerative changes that seem to accompany aging can be stopped in their tracks if preventive steps are taken.
Recent medical research confirms that paying attention to good nutrition can help prevent or at least slow conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. In fact, one report estimates that 1/3 to 1/2 of the health problems of people over the age of 65 are related to diet. In contrast, various studies of Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Trappist monks – all individuals who adhere to a vegetarian diet and participate in a smart and healthy life-style -indicate they enjoy increased life expectancy. On the whole, the older portion of our American population are a more poorly nourished group.
A person’s appetite, sense of taste and smell decline with age, making food considerably less appealing. Older people often experience chewing difficulty; in addition, lactose intolerance, heartburn, constipation, and other digestive challenges increase with age and contribute to poor nutrition. The loss of a partner, or difficulty in shopping or preparing meals, may result in a person’s choosing convenience foods that provide very little nutrition.
Some fall victim to the wrong nutrition advise or participate in self-treatment with high-dose vitamins and minerals. None of these problems are insoluble, but locating appropriate solutions take a bit more effort.
Our body composition changes with age and as muscle mass drops, often due to lack of use, leads to increases in fat. As metabolism slows less calories are needed and experts advise the average person would be wise to eat 10 percent less calories for every decade after the age of 50.
Therefore, a 50-year-old who needs 1,800 calories a day will need 1,440 calories at age 70, and probably even fewer if he/she is not active. People who do not cut back on eating will probably gain weight, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and osteoarthritis.
With age, the body is less efficient in absorbing and using some nutrients; osteoporosis and other medical conditions common among older people also change nutritional needs. As a result, an older person is likely to need extra amounts of the following essential nutrients:
- Calcium to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D, which the body needs in order to absorb the calcium.
- Vitamin BI2 to build red blood cells and maintain healthy nerves.
- Vitamin E to help protect against heart disease.
- Zinc to help make up for decreased immunity due to aging.
- Potassium, especially in the presence of high blood pressure or the use of diuretic drugs.
- Fiber to prevent constipation.