Nutrition and Aging
This article covers some reasons of eating healthy as we age due to changes occurring slowly over time in all the body systems. These changes are influenced by life events, illnesses, genetic traits and socioeconomic factors. It is noted, while we age, we lose lean body mass. This reduced muscle mass includes skeletal muscle, smooth muscle and muscle that slow down vital organ function, with loss of cardiac muscle perhaps the most critical.
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Cardiac capacity can be reduced and cardiac function impaired by chronic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. Changes also occur in the kidneys, lungs and liver, and hamper the bodies’ ability to generate new protein tissue. Plus, aging can slow the immune system’s response in making antibodies furthermore, loss of lean body mass also means reduced body water for 72 percent of total body water is in lean muscle tissue. Accordingly, while we age, body fat increases more so from consuming too many calories.
Nutrition can be a factor in all of the changes noted above. However, the slowing of the normal action of the digestive tract plus general changes have the most direct effect on nutrition. Digestive secretions diminish, although enzymes remain adequate. Adequate dietary fiber, as opposed to increased use of laxatives, will maintain regular bowel function and not interfere with the digestion and absorption of nutrients, which is what often occurs with laxative use or abuse.
Calorie needs change due to more body fat and less lean muscle. Less activity can further decrease calorie needs. The challenge for the elderly is to meet the same nutrient needs as when they were younger, yet consume fewer calories. The answer to this problem is to choose foods high in nutrients in relation to their calories. Such foods are considered “nutrient-dense. ” For example, low-fat milk is more nutrient dense than regular milk. Its nutrient content is the same, but it has fewer calories because it has less fat.
It also becomes more important that diets contain enough calcium, fiber, iron, protein, and the vitamins A, C, D and that supplements are added if they are not consuming enough from their regular diet. As we age, water is still quite necessary, even though it appears we are drying up from the inside out, we need to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day,