Six Nutrition Obstacles Seniors Need to Overcome

If you've ever felt that your body doesn't bounce back from stressors, exercise or illness like it used to, you may have attributed it to diet changes or age. As we age, we can get sick more often and not bounce back as quickly, become more easily fatigued, feel weaker or gain weight easier. How we eat plays an increasingly important role in how we feel. Exercise helps you feel young, but the more you exercise at an older age, the more quality nutrition you need.

Whatever your sport of choice, whatever your goal for health exercise may be, one thing is well-known: the older you are, the more potential health risks and concerns you may have- and nutrition plays a big part. Given the many physiological changes of aging, as people get older being athletic is more necessary but puts additional strain on the body and produces different nutrition needs.
As an older person looking to become or remain active and stay healthy, every food choice you make should be nutritionally dense to avoid being undernourished.
Effects of aging start to affect digestion and metabolism as early as age 30, but effects of aging become more magnified over age 60. Here are the main issues of aging and recommendations on eating to age healthfully and gracefully.

Slower Metabolism

  1. As we age, our resting metabolism drops slowly and steadily — meaning it takes less energy to keep your body functioning as the years go by. This decline has shown to be roughly 2% per year after age 30.
  2. Along with this slower metabolism, our calorie needs tend to drop: most of us have a lower activity level and less lean muscle as our hobbies become more leisurely and sedentary.
  3. As a result of the first two points, gaining weight happens more easily as we age, it oftentimes leads to us over-restricting calories (ie. skipping lunch or dinner), and as a result, we may not get enough nutrients.
Each bite should be focused on getting what your body needs, not what you want.

Less Bone Density

  1. Your bone strength declines with age, leading to an increased risk of fractures and breaks.
  2. Calcium and vitamin D intake help to protect the skeletal structure.
  3. Aim to consume fortified milks, juices, cereals and canned fish (sardines/salmon) to get enough of these nutrients daily.
  4. Physical activity stimulates muscle contraction, and contracting muscles release calcium and encourage more calcium uptake by bones.

Less Lean Muscle

  1. Lean muscle tissue is lost as the years go by, even in well-trained athletes routinely and intensely exercising.
  2. To keep your muscle mass intact, make sure protein needs are being met with a variety of plant and animal sources (as these foods offer nutrients outside of protein).
  3. Aim for roughly 1-1.2 grams/kg of body weight for people that do moderate-intensity activities like 45-60 minutes of cycling, swimming, dancing, boot camp or running, 1.4 grams/kg of body weight for endurance athletes and 1.7 g/kg for strength athletes. Talk to your dietitian via Unified Care app to see how much protein you need and how to fit them into your diet.

Lacking Nutrients

  1. Appetite levels and taste sensations typically decline with age. While this is nature's way of balancing a slowing metabolism, many aging adults don't get enough nutrients as a result.
  2. If food seems bland and boring, you are also at risk of consuming a diet inadequate in vitamins and minerals. Add lemon, garlic, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and fresh herbs for a dose of flavor, no guilt, and a great mineral boost.
  3. Aim to try new bold flavors and eat first what your body needs, not desires.

Chronic Dehydration

  1. Thirst sensations decrease with age as well, meaning you won’t feel thirsty and might not get enough fluids. This is especially important for people exercising for hours sweating in hot, humid temperatures, or doing hot yoga.
  2. Drink by time instead of thirst and check urine color (light yellow means well-hydrated).
  3. There’s no need to chug water, take small sips throughout the day and add nutrient-rich fluids like milk and smoothies to your diet.

Reduced Ability to Absorb Nutrients

  1. All those years of eating whatever you wanted most likely will catch up to you in the form of gut inflammation.
  2. The more inflamed your gut is, the less able it is to absorb nutrients from food.
  3. Taking a multivitamin is good way to cover your bases but won’t cover all your body's needs.
  4. The best way to consume vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients is through a well-balanced, natural, flavorful, and colorful diet.

The Bottom Line

Overall, people over 65 have a slightly different set of nutritional needs due mostly to declining energy needs and higher nutrient requirements. If you’re looking to improve your health or even fitness later into life while keeping a generally healthful body, eat a diet that is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. Supplements may help meet needs, but make sure to check with your doctor and UnifiedCare team before adding one to your daily regimen.

January 4, 2019 | Categories: Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Hyperlipidemia, Hypertension, Nutrition, Nutrition & Diabetes, Nutrition & Hyperlipidemia, Nutrition & Hypertension, Nutrition & Weight, Weight Management, Wellness | Comments Off

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