All your life you’ve been told to consume a balanced diet consisting of all foods. Watching what you eat when you’re older is that much more important. It can help you remain active and independent for longer while reducing trips to the doctors; especially if you are suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases.
Chronic Diseases are some of the most common threats faced by the elderly in the US. Cardiovascular disease is one the major causes of death amongst the elderly worldwide and is heavily related to an inactive lifestyle and poor diet.
The risks of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke can be significantly lowered by consuming a healthy diet consisting of polyunsaturated fat (walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds) and less saturated fats and trans-fats.
There is never a time where you shouldn’t be having high content of fruits and vegetables in your diet. The American Dietary Guidelines state that you should be having 2 ½ cups to 6 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Note that this is dependent on the number of calories your body requires based on your weight and the level of physical activity you engage in.
Salt is another ingredient that elders need to watch out for when it comes to looking after their hearts. A high intake of salt causes your blood pressure to increase, which is dangerous for your heart and can cause heart attacks. However, it’s important to note that just because a high content of salt in your body can lead to heart attacks, it doesn’t mean that you stop eating salt altogether. Low levels of sodium in your blood can lead to a condition called Hyponatremia which affects a person’s mental state, can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and even seizures in worse cases.
Tobacco is the leading cause of cancer but dietary factors also impact health heavily and can also lead to cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the risk of cancer significantly. Cancers of the esophagus, colorectal, breast, endometrium and kidney can be avoided by adopting a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a good weight.
Making a balanced, plant-based diet consisting of high quantities of fruits, vegetables, nuts, soy and whole grains can lessen your chances of developing many types of cancers. Plant- based foods enriched with minerals and nutrients that strengthen your immune system which allows your body to protect itself against cancerous cells. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium present in fruits and vegetables rid your body of free radicals that lead to cancer and ensure that your cells are functioning properly.
Evidence suggest that certain plant-based foods are effective in reducing chances of developing specific kinds of cancers:
- High intake of fruits can protect you from developing stomach and lung cancer
vegetables with a high content of carotenoids such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, and squash lessen the risks of lung, mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers.
High starchy veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and beans protect against esophageal and stomach cancer.
- Fruits and vegetables with high levels of Vitamin C like oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens can also protect against esophageal cancer.
- Other foods with a high content lycopene like tomatoes, guava and watermelon can prevent the development of prostate cancer.
- It should be noted that the nutritional benefits of these plants decline if they are processed, cooked and even when they are mixed with other ingredients. If you’re looking to get the most nutrients out of them then try to eat them in their natural forms (or as close as possible).
Osteoporosis and Bone Fractures
Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries and even fatalities amongst the elderly. The weak bones of the elderly make them vulnerable to broken bones and fractures. As we age, our bones do wear down but an adequate consumption of calcium (500g every day) and Vitamin D lessen the chances of developing osteoporosis and strengthen the bones so they aren’t as brittle.
Other than eating and drinking foods that contain high contents of calcium and vitamin D, adults should make sure they are getting a good amount of sunlight and exercise every day too.
It is often wrongly assumed that becoming older means your teeth will fall off. In fact, after your baby teeth have fallen off, age has nothing to do with the loss of teeth. If you look after your teeth, you should be able to keep your teeth for as long as you live.
Caries can be prevented by limiting the consumption of sugars and exposure to acidic foods and beverages. High levels of acidity in the mouth provide the environment for plague to breed and cause gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis).
While gingivitis is reversible, periodontitis is not. Severe forms of periodontitis damage the bone and the tissue that supports the teeth and causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets. The pockets become infected and develop bacterial toxins. Your immune system tries to fight the bacteria causing the gums to wear down even more. Eventually, the tissue and bones will weaken and the teeth will become loose.
Regular brushing and flossing can prevent you from getting gum disease and your teeth from falling out. There are also foods that you can eat that will help you keep your teeth healthier.