Keeping Our Older Community Healthy And Active For Longer.
Why adequate nutrition is so important as we age
As we get older, the process of aging is marked by significant physical, physiological and cognitive changes in the body, which can have a negative impact on the health and lifestyle of the elderly population.
The older population are at high risk of developing nutritional deficiencies due to either low dietary intake, impairment in the mechanism of absorption, or failure of conversion to active forms that the body can use. These increased nutritional deficiencies pose major risk factors for certain chronic diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases; loss of bone density and muscle mass increasing risk of osteoporosis and sarcopenia; dementia; increased digestive problems leading to higher laxative use which can affect absorption of key nutrients such as B12, calcium, iron and magnesium; and deteriorated age-related health. For successful aging, although energy needs decline, the need for key macro and micronutrients increases.
Key nutrients that are essential as we get older but frequently deficient
Reduced daily food intake among elderly fails to provide them with crucial levels of protein. This insufficiency of protein intake results in loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) & affects bone functional loss & frailty. Due to metabolic alterations, the ability to produce muscle protein decreases drastically. Adequate intake of essential amino acids or protein is known to stimulate the synthesis of skeletal muscle protein rates. Research indicates that high quality protein sources, timing of protein intake & amino acid supplementation/content are known to enhance protein absorption among elderly. To overcome risk of sarcopenia, it is recommended to incorporate high concentrations of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), particularly leucine, into the diet. Protein supplements are an effective solution for boosting muscle protein synthesis among elderly.
Iron deficiency, resulting from decreased food intake, medications, gastrointestinal malabsorption, occult bleeding, is common with the elderly. Low iron levels affect quality of life, cognitive functioning, and is associated with depression, fatigue, loss of muscle strength. Zinc deficiencies lead to weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infections. Deficiencies in calcium due to malabsorption, reduced food intake, high sodium diets, and inadequate Vitamin D3 levels, increase risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, maintenance of muscular strength and prevention of osteoporosis. Degenerative digestive conditions result in frequent use of laxatives resulting in poor nutrient absorption, such as B6, B12 and folate, affecting cognitive functioning and depressive symptoms, increasing serum homocysteine levels, which is related to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s Disease, and dementia. Food’s high in fibre can reduce use of laxatives and enhance B vitamin absorption. Polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats that are needed to maintain good health and particularly important as you get older. Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood, lowering risk of heart disease and stroke, and reduce inflammation. Diets with a healthy omega ratio have been associated with decreased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
How can we ensure adequate intake of vital nutrients as we age?
The majority of the age-related illnesses can be somewhat prevented by following appropriate nutritional interventions and consuming food’s rich in nutrients and antioxidants. In order to meet this requirement successfully, the use of dietary supplements, fortified foods, and protein supplements has grown in demand. Research has demonstrated that supplementation can significantly improve the health status of this fragile population and subsequently reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Foods rich in vital nutrients, such as a variety of hemp foods, should be consumed daily as part of a healthy balanced diet to help avoid nutrient deficiencies. Special emphasis must be given to geriatric health for improved health status maintenance and to decrease the prevalence of chronic diseases.
**This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your medical practitioner or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regime.
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