Nutrition for Healthy Aging

Why is a healthy diet important?

As you get older, a healthy diet can help lessen the effects of diseases such as osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and digestive problems. It can help you feel better, recover faster from illnesses, and possibly spend less time in the hospital.

Unfortunately poor diet is one of the most common health problems in older adults. Over time, poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems.

What can cause a poor diet in the later years?

You may not eat a healthy diet because:

  • You do not eat as much as you should because you don’t like eating alone or you have a lack of desire or ability to cook.
  • Missing teeth or poorly fitting dentures make it hard to chew some foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • You avoid dairy products because milk and cheese give you gas or constipation.
  • You take medicines that affect your sense of taste or cause a loss of appetite.
  • You feel that you cannot afford to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat.
  • As people age, changes in the body can affect nutrition. The body does not absorb nutrients as well as it used to. You need to take in more nutrients to get enough. You may not need as many calories as you used to, so you need foods that are high in vitamins and minerals, but not high in calories.

Many older people have medical problems and some may need a special diet, for example:

  • A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for heart disease
  • A low-sodium diet for high blood pressure
  • A low-calorie diet to lose weight

Foods that are quick and easy to prepare may have too many calories or be high in fat and sodium. You may need to put more effort into finding foods that fit your diet.

How can I prevent poor nutrition?

To help prevent poor nutrition:

  • Read food labels to help you make healthy choices.
  • Avoid using too much salt by limiting canned and other packaged foods. Add less salt when you cook or eat.
  • Eat a variety of foods to get the calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs.
  • Eat plenty of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grain breads and cereals.
  • Cut down on high-fat foods. Choose lean meats.
  • Drink nonfat or low-fat milk and eat other low-fat dairy products to get plenty of calcium to keep your bones healthy.
  • Keep plenty of easily prepared, nutritious foods handy to snack on.
  • Eat fish twice a week.
  • Try eating smaller amounts more often all through the day.
  • Ask your provider if you should take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
  • When eating out, choose restaurants that offer a heart-healthy menu.
  • Use a microwave oven to make cooking easier and quicker.

Here’s how family members and friends can help:

  • Contact agencies or organizations such as Meals on Wheels or the Area Administration on Aging.
  • Help with grocery shopping.
  • Prepare foods and take them to the older person.
  • Help plan meal and snack menus to include all the food groups.
  • Join the older person for meals.

Talk with your healthcare provider about a healthy weight based on your height and age. Try to stay near that healthy weight by exercising and eating nutritious foods. A good nutritionist can help you with your diet. Nutritionists are available for consultation through your local senior center or healthcare facility.

How much should I weigh?

A healthy weight lowers your risk for many diseases and health problems. There is a wide range of healthy weight for any particular height. Also, being fit and healthy involves more than just having a good weight. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you should be concerned about your weight.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-30
Last reviewed: 2014-03-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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