Aging Well: Life-long health and wellness goes back to the basics
June 18, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 12:49 pm)
By Krista Newton, LCSW
“Eat Healthy Foods and Exercise,” – It’s a phrase we hear regardless of our ages. These words remain true, especially for older adults. Food choices and activity can greatly increase feeling “well,” both physically and emotionally. In addition, intentional, therapeutic exercise has proven benefits to our bodies, minds and souls as we age.
“Food just doesn’t taste like it used to.”
“My partner and I don’t feel like cooking anymore.”
“I’m just not that hungry.”
Sound familiar? These are a few reasons some older people don’t eat healthful meals.
Malnutrition is a concern among older adults – one that can lead to health problems and a steady decline in ability. Skipping meals can become a bad habit – one that can lead to weight loss. Why is this a problem? Older adults primarily lose muscle, not fat, which increases the risk of balance problems and falls.
It’s important to know that nutritional needs change as a person ages. Nutrients (proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber) aren’t processed in the same way. Seniors need more nutrients in fewer calories.
For example, consuming adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D is essential to maintaining a healthy bone structure. This can be accomplished by eating plenty of dairy and vegetable products.
Here are some tips to get you started:
>> Eat many different colors and types of vegetables and fruits.
>> Make sure at least half of your grains are whole grains.
>> Eat only small amounts of solid fats, oils, and foods high in sugars.
>> Limit saturated fat (found mostly in foods that come from animals) or trans fats (found in foods like some margarines, cookies, and crackers).
Exercise can feel somewhat daunting at times. Finding the motivation to get to the gym or “work-out” or even walk regularly, can be a challenge, especially as we age.
Have you ever wondered how exercise could benefit you, your partner or someone you love? Here are a few of the top reasons:
1. Relief of muscular tension: It is harder to move around when muscles are tight – plus we’re more susceptible to injury. Tense muscles also affect posture, and can result in long term problems.
2. Increased circulation: Increased circulation is important for older adults. It can help with faster healing as well as decreased pain. Arthritic patients will see an improvement in joint function with increased circulation.
3. Atrophy reversal: The only way to regain muscle strength and full range of motion after prolonged bed rest is through exercise. Therapy sessions can help patients return to full activities sooner.
4. Natural mood enhancer: Life changing diseases can lead to depression, which can be alleviated through exercise.
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Start by making small improvement to your diet and activity. Even those changes can put you on the right path to a healthier lifestyle!
Krista Newton, LCSW, is the Director of Business development for Shalom Cares, a hospice and service provider of health care for in-home treatment of illnesses and injuries that serves the Denver metro area. Reach Newton by email at Krista.firstname.lastname@example.org or for more info, visit http://shalomcares.org