Nutrition and life style for optimal aging

The older population is at risk of frailty, depression, severe illnesses and decreased life expectancy. With age, people become more sedentary, and at higher risk of sarcopenia (loss of muscles), osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become more fragile and the person concerned has higher risks of bone fractures and falls), infections, decreased immune activity… The role played by nutrition and life style modification is essential in order to prevent the progression towards these issues or at least decrease their effects.

Concerning nutritional needs, an old person needs to consume daily 30-35 Calories/kg of body weight. We should help them drink enough water even if they don’t feel thirsty at all, which can happen with age. In addition, it is essential that they consume meats to have enough proteins that can boost the immune function and prevent sarcopenia. If the old person has dental problems, we can choose tender meats so they would be able to chew them. The same thing applies to fruits and vegetables that provide a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for preventing infections and diseases. We can simply cook them, blend them into juices or sauces. We should also not forget milk and dairy products, that are not only rich in proteins, but also in Calcium and vitamin D which are crucial in order to maintain good bone health and prevent the risk of falls and fractures.

You can also try to let them help in cooking the meals, so they can feel more engaged in their surroundings.

Talking about life style, it is really important to help the elderly population to remain active. We can go with them daily for walks and jogs…and if possible, allowing them to do some strength exercises with light weights once or twice a week in order to grow muscle mass and decrease sarcopenia. Physical activity not only will help them on the physical level, but it will also boost their mood and improve their morale, therefore decreasing the risk of depression.

Medical monitoring is essential in some cases in order to detect any disease or deficiencies. The old person might in some cases need medical interventions, medicines and supplements.

Finally, we should help them to stay away from stress or anxiety, refrain from consuming a lot of alcohol, and finally avoid smoking cigarettes.

All of these recommendations cannot be done by the old person alone, he or she will need someone’s assistance. We owe them for raising us into who we are today, so let’s not forget to be helpful in return when they need us the most.

Elie Saadé and Stéphanie Nassar - Dietitians at Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic (ESDC)

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