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Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Aging Month’

September is Healthy Aging Month. Don’t let this month end without assessing how healthy you are, especially if you are over the age of 50. Regardless of your current age, all of us want to remain as healthy as possible. Yet, the aging process may start much earlier than we think. Our minds and bodies don’t wait until we’re 70 or 60 or even 50. Aging begins by the age of 30. How fast we age depends on the reaction of the cells within our bodies. Even our body organs age at different rates.

Many factors influence the aging process such as heredity, lifestyle choices, habits, environment, and disease conditions. We can’t change some things, like heredity. However, one major aspect of aging we can control is the food we put into our bodies. Whether normal aging changes in vision, hearing, taste, and bones and organs or some disease condition such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart disease, or numerous other maladies, food can play a role in how rapidly cells deteriorate.

The recommended diet for the aging is similar to a healthy diet for all adults. According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, older adults as a group tend to have healthier eating habits than other age groups. However, based on the Healthy Eating Index, older adults scored 63 out of 100 which leaves a lot of room for improvement. Recommendations for a healthy diet include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and adequate amounts of protein foods. Nutrient intake hampered by insufficient amounts of these food categories include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber. Because of the decreased ability to absorb B12, older adults are encouraged to consume protein foods, a major source, and foods fortified with B12 such as cereals.

Healthy Food, Healthy Eating, Dietetic, Food, Fruit

The following dietary suggestions can help to maintain and improve health. Unless otherwise indicated, these are listed as serving per day. For those with a healthy BMI, the number of servings is based on daily recommended calories starting at 1,600 calories for women and ranging to 2,600 calories for men. Greater diet improvement occurs when limiting added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. For fruits and vegetables, ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw is considered a serving.

  1. Fruits: Choose a variety of 3 to 4 each day. Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants which enhance memory and brain health, help prevent cancer, heart disease, and dementia, and boost the immune system.
  2. Vegetables: Eat 4 to 6 serving a day based on the following.
    • Dark green – 3 to 4 servings weekly (kale, spinach, etc.)
    • Red or orange – 8 to 12 servings weekly (sweet potatoes, winter squash, etc.)
    • Beans/legumes – 2 to 4 servings weekly (pintos, dried lima beans, etc.)
    • Starchy – 8 to 12 servings weekly (white potatoes, corn, etc.)
    • Other vegetables – 7 to 10 (a variety of vegetables not included in the above categories)
  3. Grains: Select 10 to 16 ounces with half of selections from whole grains.
  4. Dairy: Consume 6 cups milk or the equivalent per day, preferably low-fat. Choose milk, cheese, yogurt, or other forms of dairy.
  5. Protein foods: Include 10 to 13 ounces daily. Select from meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; nuts, seeds, and soy products.

In addition to appropriate foods, conditions to assist in healthy eating include; a pleasant environment to enhance meal enjoyment, good dentition and the ability to swallow, and consuming food that is safe and wholesome.

While food plays a significant role in healthy aging, other considerations include (but are not limited to):

Senior man and senior woman jogging side by side on the street Couple of seniors jogging outdoors in the city Exercising Stock Photo
  • Adequate exercise: Depending on current physical abilities, walking and other exercises help our bodies retain flexibility and prevent stiffness as well as lethargy. Advancing years may slow our pace, but exercise, like appropriate eating, is a lifetime function.
  • Plenty of sleep: Our bodies rebel when we fail to get adequate sleep. While rest may be disturbed by pain or health issues, talk with your health professional for help and suggestions.
  • Socializing: Staying secluded is more likely to result in psychological problems. When we have little to focus on other than ourselves, depression is more likely to set it. It’s important to retain friends and leave your dwelling when possible.
  • Stimulating your mind: Many avenues exist to stimulate your mind and memory. Whether you choose a favorite game, read, or start a new hobby, the challenge can be rewarding. Many older adults return to the classroom to expand their knowledge while also improving their brain cells.
  • Counting your blessings: A negative attitude helps no one. Whatever our age, we are blessed to reach that chronological age. A scripture verse I find helpful is, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps.118:24 NRSV). Try it

Although there is no guarantee we will live a long life, these guidelines can help. As Spock (Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek) said, “Live long and prosper.” Don’t wait a day longer. Start now. Happy, healthy aging.

Old, Youth, Contrast, Young, Power

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