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Delay Aging with Good Nutrition

Posted on September 25, 2019 | No Comments on Delay Aging with Good Nutrition

Aging is a complex process that accelerates as growth wanes, and continues relentlessly throughout life. While progressive changes in physiological function, body composition, sensory perception, and functional status may occur at any age, the rate of change is strongly influenced by the individual’s genetic background and life experiences.

Many times I meet clients whose cheerful dispositions, sharp minds and alert spirits prompt me to ask how old they are and what they have done to look 55 when they are 87 in reality. Inevitability the answer is, “I watch my food and drink, exercise regularly, sleep well, and wear good shoes all the time.”

The connection between lifestyle factors, such as nutrition and exercise and independent functioning is increasingly being recognized, together with the fact that physical and functional decline associated with poor nutritional status is avoidable with prompt and appropriate intervention.

Despite advances in gerontology (science of aging), malnutrition is frequently unrecognized, undocumented, and under-treated. One of the barriers in early detection and treatment of poor nutritional status is the belief, held even among health professionals, that physical and functional declines are a normal and inevitable part of aging, not a consequence of lifestyle factors. Much of the decline associated with aging is an increased vulnerability to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, etc., and low level of resistance to infection.

Some factors that improve nutritional status
Factors frequently identified as potential causes of poor nutritional status are physical, psychological, social and economic factors. Many of these are modifiable with appropriate interventions by an interdisciplinary health care team and also the tender loving care of families and friends.

Many chronic conditions common in the elderly can affect physical ability and food utilization. Cognitive and loss of functionality can interfere with the ability to purchase food, or prepare and eat a meal. In those with Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive deficits may eventually erode all independent self-feeding functions. Sensory deficits, such as loss of taste and smell perception, affect appetite and eating motivation. Tactile deficits interfere with temperature, mouth feel, texture discrimination, and can make eating and swallowing difficult. After a while, all food tastes the same or favorite meals are rejected. Dysphagia (difficulty of swallowing), which is often related to stroke, cancer or neuromuscular conditions, limits the ability to ingest food.

Conditions that limit mobility, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and stroke, diminish self-feeding function.

Easy ways to improve nutritional well-being of the elderly

  1. Pick a wide variety of food easy to identify with, or repeat their favorite food.
  2. Choose soft, easy to chew, smaller bite sizes like siomai or picadillo, meatloaf or mini burger.
  3. Fluid habit is a must, as most elderly are dehydrated or forget to drink. Any favorite fluid such as juices, sherbet and herbal tea would do.
  4. Small frequent feeding might be better than three big meals.
  5. Multivitamins and mineral supplements can never replace good cooked food.
  6. Increase seasoning and beautiful food presentations at meal time so they can savor the flavor and taste of the food.
  7. Change eating venue to airy and bright spots at home like the lanai, rock garden or patio.
  8. Discourage eating in their bedrooms.
  9. Sufficient food intake or total calorie is important daily.
  10. Be aware of the “Significant Other” food—abusive sugar and sugary pastries for those with diabetes, salt and salty products if hypertensive, and the kinds of fats to avoid like animal saturated fats. Include oils like olive or canola oil and omega-3 fatty acids from seafood in meals.
  11. Maintain healthy weight—body mass index is a simple tool.
  12. Don’t be a supplemental dependent. Older people are prone to taking too many pills and medications. It may do more harm than good, so review what they are taking.
  13. Enjoy your food. Be positive in life.

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