Nutrition and Aging
Source: General Conference Nutrition Council
Who Makes Up The Fastest Growing Segment Of The US Population?
Between 1950 and 1980 the number of 65-year-olds doubled. Today they make up 12 percent of the population in America. Between 1960 and 1980 the over-85 crowd has increased 281 percent. The numbers of those over 100 continue to increase, with 32,000 in 1980; 62,000 in 1990; and a projected 600,000 by 2050. Chances are you will get there.
So, How Can I Get To Age 100 Feeling Fit And Fine?
The good news is that you are in charge of a major share of how you get there. The deadly killers are not usually acute infections, but rather chronic diseases. Heart disease and cancer take the most lives of men and women in Western society. Osteoporosis (thin, easily fractured bones) causes disability and death.
These are closely related to choices made throughout a life-time, or lifestyle diseases. Smoking, poor nutrition and lack of exercise increases the risk for each. So:
- Stop smoking
- Make healthy food choices
- Exercise regularly
What Nutrients Are Of Particular Importance To The Aging Population?
Calories. Activity tends to decrease as the years go by, and thus the need for calories decreases. However, even though less food is needed, the nutrient needs remain the same, except for iron in postmenopausal women.
Protein. Eight tenths of a gram of protein per kilogram was needed as an adult; the older adult needs 1.0 gram per kilogram (divide pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms). This means eating less refined foods and more wholesome foods, whole grain breads and cereals - 6 to 11 servings daily - less fat, sugar and non-fruit beverages.
Vitamin C, E, and the carotenoids. These antioxidants protect us from heart disease and cancer. Be sure to get five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A serving of either is 1 cup raw or ˝ cup cooked.
Calcium and vitamin D. Both are needed to keep the bones fracture free. Choose low-fat or non-fat sources of dairy products to supply both calcium and vitamin D. Postmenopausal women need as much as 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day. One cup of milk provides 300, while a cooked green leafy vegetable gives 80 to 120 per ˝ cup. Aging skin does not make vitamin D as readily as it once did, so be sure to choose vitamin D fortified foods, such as milk, certain cereals, or analogs.
Iron, folate, and vitamin B12. Each is needful to avoid the anemias that may accompany illness in the advancing years. Iron anemias are usually caused by disease, because iron intake and stores are usually excellent in the elderly. Senior adults do not often consume adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in folic acid. Because of decreased gastric juices, it is recommended that those over 50 years of age take a vitamin B12 supplements to avoid the anemia and the nerve damage that results from its lack. Total vegetarians especially, must supplement with B12 throughout their lives.
Zinc and selenium. These two minerals are important for the immune system plus other functions, including mental status, wound healing, and a healthy appetite. Sources of zinc include cereals, breads, rice, nuts, and beans. Grains, seeds and Brazil nuts provide selenium.
What Is The Goal For The Later Years?
If a person can delay chronic disease and disability, live independently and actively, enjoying life, the goal of successful aging will have been reached. Chronic disease and disability are delayed by maintaining a comfortable weight from the 20s, choosing foods rich in antioxidants, exercising regularly, and following your doctor’s advice regarding hormone replacement therapy.
Plan early to support independent living. The better educated have the resources and awareness to develop interests, travel, entertain friends, and participate in the community. Attendance at religious events and participation in community activities add to life’s enjoyment and longevity. Emotional support from family and friends will do the same. Continue to entertain those for whom you care. Food tastes better with family and friends. To maintain mental function, keep the mind active. Talk, read, work puzzles or play Scrabble or whatever else your interests may entail.
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Americans typically eat <1 serving/day of whole grain products. The recommendation is for at least 3 servings/day of whole grains. Four large epidemiological studies all reveal a 25 to 35 percent reduction in risk of coronary heart disease with a regular intake of whole grain products.