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Posts Tagged ‘Old age’

How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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 If you are over fifty years of age, would you classify yourself as growing old or aging gracefully?

January 1, 2011 marked the beginning of Baby Boomers turning age sixty-five. Each day 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the golden retirement age. This new generation of old folks is unwilling to rock away their twilight years.

Growing old has a different definition than the one used by your mother. Lifestyles for senior citizens differ from past decades. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), focus has changed from “just aging to healthy aging.”   

Today’s older population takes more responsibility for their health and seeks to live active, vibrant lives. Old age not only has changed in definition but encompasses a wider age range than other age groups. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), considers those age fifty as senior adults. Age sixty-five marked the initial starting point for Social security. We now see older adults sub-divided into old and oldest-old, those age eighty-five and older. Today, more seniors reach the century mark with close to one million centenarians projected by 2050. Future years may also see more Supercentenarian, those over age 110. Who knows, you may reach that number. That makes age sixty-five look like just another birthday.

How can you stay healthier in later years? The AICR posted a quiz to help identify what you know and don’t know about aging and cancer. You can find the quiz at www.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id-20603                 

The quiz highlights, among other things, benefits of physical activity and eating vegetables and fruits. AICR cites the relationship between diet and cancers of the  mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, lung, pancreas, and prostate. It is never too late to make wise choice to abate the risk of cancer.

May is Older Americans Month. The theme for 2011 is Older Americans: connecting the community. The National Senior Health and Fitness Day is May 25. If you are near the half-century mark or beyond, what are you doing to remain younger by preventing cancer and other illnesses?

Healthy aging is possible. It’s up to you.

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