Jennifer Broxterman, Msc, RD wrote an excellent article entitled “7 Lifestyle strategies to stay strong, healthy and independent longer”. I am providing some excerpts from that article here to highlight some simple nutrition and lifestyle changes that can dramatically improve quality of life.
Modern medicine can help us live longer, so what’s the point of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements? Well, we don’t want to just live longer. We want to live well! We want a quality of life that allows us to travel and enjoy our retirement, to run around our grandchildren without aches and pains and to generally enjoy life feeling good in our bodies, minds and hearts.
Inflammation in our bodies can be helped by consuming a diet high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and antioxidants. We can preserve brain health by exercising regularly, consuming a nutritious diet, managing blood sugar and reducing/eliminating smoking and/or excessive alcohol consumption.
In older age, energy needs decrease but nutrition needs increase. Dehydration is a risk due to side effects from prescription medications or a reduced sense of thirst. Older adults should consume 2-3 liters of liquids per day in the form of water (ideally), herbal teas, broths or liquid-based foods like smoothies and soup.
While most vitamin and mineral needs increase with age due to poor absorption or interactions with medications, some needs decrease. Absorption of Vit A increases with aging, so Vit A should be avoided in supplement form. Food sources like liver, dairy products, fish and carotenoids (sweet potato, squash and carrots) provide Vit A.
We are less efficient at absorbing Vit B12 (which supports brain and nervous system health) as we get older. We can get B12 from eggs, dairy products, meat, fish, shellfish, poultry and B12 fortified foods.
Vit D is involved in immune system, hormone, bone and brain health. Moderate sun exposure and Vit D supplements are recommended, as Vit D does not occur naturally in high amounts in food. Vit D is fat soluble so you should take supplements with food that contain fat.
Vit E can be found in nuts, seeds, nut butters and wheat germ. Vit C can be easily obtained by consuming a variety of fresh (uncooked) fruits and vegetables every day.
We need calcium to regulate heart rate and maintain bone mass, but absorption declines with age. Prioritize calcium intake through whole food sources, such as dairy products, cooked greens and calcium-fortified foods.
As we age we need more protein to do the same job. Choose proteins that are soft and easy to digest, such as stewed meats or poultry, soft cooked fish, well-cooked legumes, scrambled eggs and good quality protein powders.
Good quality carbohydrates (well-cooked whole grains and porridges, well-cooked legumes, well-cooked root vegetables, fruits and powdered fiber supplements) help meet energy needs and add fiber to the diet which prevents constipation.
Fats play an important role in inflammation regulation. Avoid processed foods which tend to have trans fats, have moderate saturated fats (like animal fats). Good quality omega-6 (like virgin olive oil and avocado) and omega-3 fats (from foods like sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, flax, chia, hemp seeds and walnuts) are good.
Consume a colorful, balanced whole foods diet. Prioritize nutrient dense foods first, but don’t eliminate all treats. Pleasure is important too. Above all KEEP MOVING! Exercise signals your body to use nutrients and balance blood sugar, build and repair bone and muscle tissue and circulate blood, nutrients and oxygen, including to the brain. Exercise improves mood and well being especially if it’s social. So find a friend and walk into your New Year together to better health!
Nicole Stann PT, OMT
Primacare Physical Therapy