Healthy Living For the Elderly: Eat, Supplement, Exercise
As people age, their dietary, exercise, and supplement needs change. Here is what you need to know about those changes, as well as some suggestions for how to best meet your bodies needs as you age.
Caring for physical health is important at every age. We take care of our bodies through healthy diet, physical fitness, and often through the addition of helpful supplements. As our bodies age and change, our needs for these things change as well. It’s helpful, then, to understand what types of supplements are best suited to the body as it ages.
Often, the nutritional needs of a 70-year-old man or woman are far different than they were in their 20s, 30s, or even their 50s. How do these different needs impact health regimens? Answering this question will enable you to make smart choices about what you eat, and how you supplement your diet to maximize your health.
You may be moving into your 50s and wondering how you should best care for your health in the coming years. You may be caring for aging parents, and looking to help them maintain high quality of life.
Whatever the case, considering the following information and suggestions will aid you in the decisions you make.
Why Do Our Nutritional Needs Change as We Age?
Understanding why and how nutritional needs change as the body ages will equip you to make the right choices about diet, exercise, and supplements. The choices you’ve always made may not be best anymore, and here are some of the reasons why.
As people, especially women, enter their 50s:
- Bone loss is accelerated
- The internal system is more subject to unhealthy bacteria
- Arteries are more likely to store up plaque
As they enter their 60s:
- Risk of dementia increases with the likelihood of B12 deficiency
- Digestive systems don’t work as well
- Brain cell membranes decrease in efficiency
Then, as people enter their 70s:
- Fighting infection becomes more difficult
- Muscle mass begins to deteriorate
- With muscle mass loss comes a weaker immune system.
Because of these increased risks, it’s important to consider the best dietary and supplement choices that will target these problems and delay their impact.
For example, focusing on getting plenty of Vitamin D will help the body fight infection. This is something that may not occur to a person at a younger age, but is important to know later in life.
In order to maintain a healthy life, doctors and experts recommend some of the following foods, exercises, and supplements.
Eat Healthy, Live Healthy
Eating healthy foods is critical at every stage of life, and that certainly doesn’t change as we age. However, our bodies may need different foods more as we move past 50, meaning we should be sure to focus on specific foods that will contribute to elderly health.
Foods that are high in Calcium and Vitamin D are incredibly important for the elderly to maintain bone health, an area of concern for most people as they age, but especially women. EatRight.org suggests that older people focus on getting at least three servings of vitamin D daily, and you can get these servings from:
- low-fat milk
- fortified cereals
- fruit juices
- dark, green leafy vegetables
Fiber is necessary for digestion function at every age, but particularly as people get older. Increasing fiber can ensure that you don’t suffer from constipation, diarrhea, or other uncomfortable gut ailments. In addition, fiber is associated with preventing heart disease.
For this, Eatright.org suggests
- whole grain breads
- fruits and vegetables
Potassium and Vitamin B12 are both nutrients that the elderly need to focus on, too. Increasing potassium can lower your risk of high blood pressure, so foods like yogurt, vegetables and fat-free milk are appropriate options. Vitamin B12 is something you can find in fortified cereals, lean meat, and some fish.
How Supplements Can Help
Ideally we’d be able to get all of the vitamins and nutrients we need from food. U.S. News suggest that seniors try to resist the promise of capsules when the primary focus should be on the healthy foods. However, there are times when certain supplements are not just beneficial, but necessary.
As far as vitamins go, multivitamins are often a go-to. If you choose this route, be sure to stick to 50+ multivitamins, as they’ll typically contain the right resources for your age range. However, it may be wiser to choose single vitamins to target your particular deficiencies, such as Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D,E and K. Be sure to consult with a physician about where you might be deficient.
As far as minerals go, the elderly should focus on things like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Calcium, in particular, is an important mineral as a person ages. It contributes to bone density and health, and increasing intake beyond a glass of milk or cup of yogurt is a good idea.
It’s also important for seniors to focus on supplements that provide them with things like Omega-3 and glucosamine.
- Omega-3, usually found in special fish-oil supplements, is believed to help lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease, and even improve your cholesterol.
- Glucosamine, combined with chondroitin, is often used to treat arthritis symptoms, a common ailment for those in the 50+ age range.
Beyond looking at these particular vitamins and minerals, older people should consider their gender when deciding which supplements to focus on for their health.
Supplements Differ for Men and Women
The needs for the elderly are further differentiated when it comes to gender. As is the case with all ages, men and women need different amounts of different things, and this proves especially true for seniors.
For Women: Calcium is a high priority. After menopause, women become more susceptible to osteoporosis. Extra calcium, whether through food or supplements, strengthens bones against this. Additionally, many older women experience deficiency in vitamins D3 and K2, as well as magnesium, so they should consider these supplements as well.
For Men: Many men over the age of 50 experience deficiency in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and zinc. Livestrong suggests that men over 60 need about 1,200 mg of calcium a day to maintain healthy bones, a number than many elderly men don’t reach without the help of supplements. Vitamins D and B12 are also lacking; Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and B12 is needed for things like red cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.
Exercise Is For The Elderly, Too
The need for regular exercise activity does not subside when people age. In fact, quite the opposite is true. According to this journal article,
“Regular exercise provides a myriad of health benefits in older adults, including improvements in blood pressure, diabetes, lipid profile, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and neurocognitive function. Regular physical activity is also associated with decreased mortality and age-related morbidity in older adults.”
While certain activities are more suited to younger athletes, there are plenty of exercises that elderly adults can pursue for their health, and their overall enjoyment of life.
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise is intrinsic to human health, from the cradle to the grave. There are plenty of ways to pursue aerobic exercise, even if you have certain health limitations:
- Walking and jogging
- Elliptical machines
- Aerobic classes (which vary in intensity level)
Strength Training: “Strength is intrinsic to daily function, especially in the very elderly,” so in addition to aerobic exercise, strength training can be incredibly beneficial. Minimal lifting, resistance training, or even regular, moderately difficult housework can serve to strengthen your muscles as you age.
As our bodies age, our ability to function without all of the proper nutrients in our system decreases. Older people’s bodies are gradually weakening and losing the ability to produce muscle mass, fight off infection, stay free from diseases, and run smoothly on their own.
Because of this, there are various vitamins, minerals, dietary needs, and exercises that they should focus on. As described above, the elderly should eat suggested foods to properly maintain their dietary and vitamin needs, supplement as needed, and exercise regularly for ongoing healthy living.
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