Staying Healthy In Old Age
Whilst it’s important for all of us to get the right sort of nutrition (and I’m sure few of us need a further reminder), those of an older generation can benefit even more from fresh, nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle. Almost all of the health risks associated with aging can be helped by eating well, particularly during the winter months, so here’s a few of OX’s tips for staying in good shape at retirement age and beyond.
The physical and psychological changes our body goes through as we age means that different nutrients are needed to support out vital systems. First of all, our stomachs produce less gastric acid past the age of about 50, which leaves it less able to absorb vitamin B12, which is essential for keeping blood and nerves healthy. Also, our skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D as we age (we get most of our natural vitamin D through sun exposure), so consider helping yourself get these nutrients through a vitamin supplement or fortified foods.
Most “plain” bread, pasta and cereals are made from white flour, which is almost entirely void of quality nutrition and plays havoc with your blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Consider replacing these with whole-grain alternatives or, even better, try and swap them as much as possible for natural, high-quality carbohydrates like beans, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.
As we age, our bodies can sometimes lose some of the ability to regular fluid levels and our sense of thirst might not be as sharp. Older adults should be drinking no less than 1.6 litres of water a day, at a conservative estimate, as drinking plenty of water can protect from urinary tract infections, constipation, and the slowing down of mental functions. To remind yourself, why not post a note in your kitchen reminding you to sip water every hour and with meals.
It’s particularly important for older people to consume high-quality protein to help with digestion and psychological function, as well as reducing muscle loss. Too much protein from red and processed meat, however, can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer, so it’s advised to eat plenty of fish, skinless chicken, low-fat dairy, beans and nuts.
Choosing the correct food isn’t the only way of keeping strong and alert in old age. Keeping warm is very important, which might seem obvious, but not all homes are properly insulated or equipped with adequate heating equipment. Make sure your boiler is working correctly (it might be worth getting a service) and double-check how your gas bill works to make sure you’re not going to be ripped off once the winter heating bills come through. Also, one of the best ways of staying upbeat and positive throughout the year is making sure you get enough moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike or even mowing the lawn. All great ways to stay physically active in your old age.
Perhaps more importantly, old age should be a happy time, helped by friends and family. If you have older friend or relative close to you, make sure that you call or visit more often if the cold weather stops your loved one from getting out and about. Offer to pick up prescriptions or shopping if it’s too cold for them to go out alone. Also, as the weather gets worse, you could offer to grit steps and paths to prevent falls – some councils provide free bags of grit.