“Old age is but a second childhood” – Aristophanes
Just like an infant growing into toddlerhood demanding more nutrition to help it grow into a healthy being; an adult slipping into old age demands more nutrition to keep up with the existing health and activity with ease. Although eating healthy should be a lifestyle to follow at any age, old age emphasizes the importance of healthy eating all the more.
Aging is a package that comes with nutritional deficiencies that make their presence felt so subtly, that it becomes difficult to point out exactly when a five-mile walk reduced itself to a one-mile stroll. Nevertheless, these changes don’t go unnoticed. However, if nutrition is looked after well, aging would commence gracefully without having a compromised quality of life or unwanted health issues.
Aging adults face a major issue with nutrition. This issue is scientifically termed ‘malnutrition’.
Malnutrition can be either undernourishment or over nourishment. If you are undernourished, you tend to lose weight unnecessarily. This condition is common in adults with serious illnesses like; cancer, organ failure, heart failure, AIDS, kidney/liver or lung disease, etc.
If you are overnourished, you tend to stick to your eating habits of when you were younger. As your body is not that active anymore, you tend to become lethargic and inactive. You also put on weight that can prove to be extremely unhealthy. Being overweight can lead to various health conditions like; cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.
Malnutrition is a common factor occurring in most adults above the age of 65. Along with malnutrition, there are several other health issues a senior might face with age.
What common health issues and problems are faced with aging?
Aging affects your senses and quality of life. A study also estimated that 20% of elderly people suffer from atrophic gastritis. This is a condition in which, cells that produce stomach acid become inflamed and damaged resulting in low production of stomach acid.
Inability to understand when you are hungry or thirsty is another health issue that comes around with aging. This can lead to dehydration and unnecessary weight loss which is not a healthy thing to happen. The need for fewer calories is yet another problem to address. As you age, activity reduces. Therefore reducing your calorie intake becomes vital to avoid becoming overweight or obese.
Muscle loss (Scaropenia) and thinning of skin are just other forms of aging. Constipation, diverticular disease, loss of bone density, and bone health, on the whole, are also common issues faced by the elderly.
Low production of red blood cells, decreased appetite and vitamin deficiencies leading to an array of health problems may occur as a sign of aging.
What are the Repercussions of aging with poor health?
Dealing with health conditions in the later phase of your life can indeed be expensive as nutritional deficiencies can affect your senses and quality of life.
A single health problem can lead to a series of other health issues, while a minuscule health problem can manifest into a huge one very quickly too. For example, low formation of stomach acid can result in poor digestion, leading to constipation resulting in loss of appetite ultimately. The inability of recognizing thirst can lead to dehydration resulting in kidney problems as well.
A decrease in muscle mass is a common cause of weakness. Weakness is a major cause of falls and fractures as you age. Dental or oral problems, like missing teeth, loose teeth, jaw problems, etc. Lactose intolerance is a common issue with aging. Loose stools are one of its symptoms.
The aforementioned might read like a scary, forbidden tale of the future. However, if healthy eating habits are fostered, you may never have to walk down the unhealthy lane.
Here are a few nutrition additions that can take care of your health and serve as a home remedy to combat health issues that come with aging:
Nutrient-rich foods can make up for deficiencies that are brought about by aging. If you wish to look at age as just a number, here is what you could do for healthy aging.
Daily intake of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and iron can prevent you from having health issues that knock on the door with age.
Constipation and Diverticular Disease
Increased intake of fiber foods like fruits and vegetables can help with digestion and constipation-related issues. Diverticular disease is a condition in which small pouches form along the colon wall and become infected or inflamed. Diverticular disease is faced by 50% of people over age 50 in Western countries. Scientists found that dietary fiber helps with stimulating bowel movements in people suffering from constipation and diverticular disease. Daily exercise can help with bowel movements too. Sufficient exercise and activity also help with maintaining overall health.
Loss of Muscle Mass
It is said that an adult loses 3–8% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Daily intake of protein can help with loss of muscle mass and weakness that follows it. Also, a protein-rich diet with resistance exercise is said to be one of the most effective ways of fighting Sarcopenia.
Consuming healthy food will naturally reduce your calorie intake keeping fat accumulation, weight gain, and obesity at bay. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, etc. may be added to your diet.
Older people find it difficult to absorb calcium with age. This is usually the reason for poor bone health, fractures, and more. The root cause of the inability to absorb calcium generally stems from a vitamin D deficiency. Getting sunlight can make up for your vitamin D deficiency. It can also strengthen your bones and maintain bone health.
Thinning of Skin
Thinning of skin is an issue that stands in the way of you and the sun i.e: vitamin D. when your skin thins, the ability for it to absorb vitamin D diminishes. Therefore increasing your intake of calcium along with vitamin D supplements could counter these effects of aging easily.
Dental problems can terribly hamper your eating especially restricting you to certain foods only. In case of shaky teeth, you could choose extraction and dentures or choose to chew on soft foods instead. For jaw-related problems, you could visit an orthodontist.
You could choose milk substitutes, vegan butter, cheese, etc. you could also choose cheddar cheese, aged cheese, and yogurt which are naturally low in lactose content. Low lactose ice-creams and milk are also favorable options.
See a doctor
Many problems span beyond vitamin deficiencies alone. Visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis of your condition before including anything new in your lifestyle.
Problems like dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing food), diabetes, blood pressure, diseases of the nervous system; dementia, cholesterol, etc. need to be discussed with your health care professional. It is extremely necessary to strike a balance between your daily intake of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Talk to your health care professional before you put yourself on any additional vitamins or medication. Also, seek professional help in case of emotional stress, depression, etc.
If your parent is suffering from emotional stress or any health issues it is important to keep in touch with them constantly. You could also choose the right care for them as per their needs. You could also use a Family1st GPS tracking system to keep a constant tab on them.