When it comes to aging, what you put in your body becomes a more pressing and real factor in your overall health and wellbeing. Changes in metabolism, hormones, thirst, strength, and much more means that seniors need to pay closer attention to their diet than ever before. Don’t miss these essential nutrition reminders for seniors and their caregivers:
One of the most prevalent health recommendations for seniors is to by mindful of their bone density! An estimated 50% of the U.S. population over 50 years of age has osteoporosis or low bone density according to a 2014 analysis of U.S. Census and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.
While the human body naturally generates it’s own calcium, it doesn’t produce enough and therefore needs to be supplemented by dietary calcium daily. When calcium reserves run low, the body actually starts pulling the mineral from bones to aid other bodily functions including helping nerve signals communicate, aiding muscle contraction, and stimulating the release of essential enzymes and hormones.
Older women are especially susceptible to bone loss because of postmenopausal hormone changes that result in greater calcium deficiencies. So how can seniors source nutritional calcium naturally without having to rely on supplements? High calcium foods include:
The Journal of the American Heart Association shared in a 2016 study that calcium supplement use may increase risk of coronary artery calcification (atherosclerosis) which contributes to heart disease and stroke. Consuming as much dietary calcium as possible is not only good for your bones, but potentially your heart as well.
Chronic dehydration may pervade a large part of the adult population, however, when it comes to senior health, it poses an even greater challenge. Why? Well for one, as you age, your sense of thirst actually can diminish leaving you without the taste ability to recognize when you need to be drinking water. Older, weaker throat muscles are unable to send back signals to the brain successfully regarding thirst, and an elderly person may feel satiated when in fact they are becoming dehydrated.
In addition to diminished thirst function, seniors may have have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) making eating and drinking water regularly harder and more time-consuming. Combine that with common medicines that have diuretic side effects, and dehydration quickly becomes a problem.
Seniors and their caregivers should prioritize both water reminders as well as ease of access to getting and drinking water regularly. These might include:
Setting phone or clock alarms for drinking water;
Discussing prescription and over the counter medicine side effects with your doctor;
Eating water-rich foods like fruits, veggies, soups, and smoothies;
The dangers of dehydration are significant as lack of water consumption can lead to hospital stays and even death.
Limiting salt intake plays a huge role in lowering high blood pressure and reducing senior risk for developing heart disease and other serious conditions. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., and one of its leading risk factors, high blood pressure, already affects over 65% of adults over 60.
Sodium is an essential mineral the body requires to maintain a delicate water balance in the body’s cells. Too much sodium, from over- consuming table salt, however, throws off this balance and can lead to fluid retention, kidney disease, and high blood pressure which stresses the heart and cardiovascular system.
The best way to limit sodium consumption is to prepare your own meals and avoid package and processed foods when possible. For seniors, cooking three meals a day isn’t always that easy. Caregivers and family can help by:
Stocking healthy snacks like fresh fruits, whole grain chips, and nuts;
Prepping meal fixings like lean meats, whole grains, and roasted veggies;
Making sure calcium-rich foods are accessible like low-fat milk, sardines, and kale;
Being smart about eating out at restaurants with low-salt options;
Avoiding sugar-heavy drinks like sodas and fruit juices.
When it comes to smart nutrition, seniors who take control of their diet and intelligently modify it with fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, and healthy fats have the best bet of fighting common chronic diseases later in life.
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