We all want to stay healthy as we age, but there’s no denying that staying healthy gets increasingly difficult the older we get. Older Americans are more likely to get sick and injured than their younger counterparts and a big part of that has to do with their diet. Even people who made an effort to eat healthy all their lives might still suffer increased health risks as they age and their nutritional needs change. Let’s take a look at some of the most common health problems faced by older Americans and how nutrition might play a role.
Atrophic gastritis is a condition faced by approximately 20% of older Americans. It’s characterized by a reduced level of stomach acid as a result of chronic inflammation in the cells that produce stomach acid.
Reduced stomach acid can lead to a reduced ability to absorb nutrients, specifically vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Atrophic gastritis can be treated with medication, but for anyone not yet diagnosed with atrophic gastritis (or any other inflammatory disease) who thinks they might be at risk, it’s a good idea to try to stick to a diet that’s low in inflammatory ingredients, specifically alcohol, sugar, refined grains, and dairy.
Calories vs. Nutrients
Another challenge of aging is that, as we age, we need fewer calories to survive, making it more difficult to get all the nutrients we need.
The solution to this problem is to eat a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods and take supplements as needed to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Remember to consult with your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet, medication, or adding any new supplements to your regimen.
In addition to losing bone mass, many people also tend to lose muscle mass as they age, which is one reason they tend to need fewer calories to get through the day than they needed when they were younger, had more muscle mass, and were more active.
Reduced muscle mass is a contributing factor to weakness in older Americans, which, in turn, is more likely to lead to fractures and other injuries.
The solution is to eat more protein, combined with strength-training exercises to help prevent the loss of strength and muscle mass.
Calcium and Vitamin D
You probably already know that bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, is a common problem among older Americans (especially women) and is a leading cause of fractures and broken bones. You might know that calcium is an important ingredient in building strong bones, but did you know that Vitamin D is just as important? Vitamin D is needed to carry calcium from the blood stream to the bones, so a full dose of calcium won’t do any good without the requisite amount of Vitamin D.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we make sure every resident has access to healthy, nutritious foods. We have a weekly menu, but adjustments can always be made for residents with specific dietary needs. Reach out now if you have any questions about our menu or any other aspect of our assisted living community.