Common Associations with Aging*
Supplementary Factors and Diet
Tips to Maintain a Healthy Active
Life in Later Years
The average life expectancy of both men and women is around 85 with individual
variations from 70 -100 years. Studies carried out in some countries have noted
that people are living longer because the survival rate from infectious diseases
is increasing. In a few remote areas of the world certain individuals live until
they are over one hundred, their longevity is associated with hard physical
Most people look forward to retirement, but few look forward to old age, even
though evidence suggests that there are now more people experiencing a healthy
old age than ever before. As we age, energy requirements fall and food intake
may also fall, but the need for nutrients stays the same. The body requires
a variety of foods in the diet to provide a wide range of nutrients. As metabolism
begins to slow down, cell renewal and enzyme production also slow down.
Common Associations with Aging*
Alzheimers disease, commonly referred to as dementia, is a condition that we
cannot prevent. However, we can reduce our chances of getting it. Exercise together
with a good quality, varied diet is important. Cognitive function in the elderly
is directly related to nutrition status. A shortage of B vitamins, particularly
B12, in the brain can impair mental function.
A reduced level of acetylcholine is believed to be related to the symptoms
of Alzheimers. Various factors have been attributed to the development of Alzheimers
including exposure to environmental substances aluminium, silicon, and oxidative
damage. An active social life and plenty of hobbies could also be recommended.
Bifidobacterium are not produced to the same extent in the digestive tract
of the over fifties. It is particularly important at this time of life to maintain
a healthy level of these friendly lactic bacteria. Fruit and vegetables help
provide fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) that provide the necessary environment
for the growth of these bacteria which help keep the intestine and hence the
Constipation troubles many older people. As the body ages, many of its various
functions slow down. In the gut, diminished muscle tone reduces the peristaltic
action of the intestine. Constipation can occur through lack of dietary fibre,
as a side effect of certain types of medication or through lack of fluid in
Digestive efficiency slowly declines with age. To help the digestive process,
chew each mouthful of food forty times! It is worth trying even if only to increase
the number of chews by a small amount. Thoroughly chewed food leads to more
complete digestion. Ill-fitting dentures; badly worn or missing teeth do not
allow thorough chewing to take place. An enzyme supplement for those with poor
digestion may be considered.
Dry skin can be a feature of aging. Skin becomes flaky and itchy especially
in cold, dry, or windy climates. Skin also becomes thinner and loses some of
its elasticity; it may tear more easily and take longer to heal. Dry skin may
benefit from bathing in warm, not hot, water and using sea salt in the bath.
Applying a moisturiser before the skin has quite dried after having a bath;
and consuming essential (omega 3 and 6) fatty acids in the diet may be helpful.
Eye health is important throughout life. By the time we are old it is invariably
too late to change much except our diet and exercise routine (yes, eyes can
be exercised). Impaired vision is common in old age. Nearly half the population
aged around 80 suffer some visual loss because of cataracts. Exposure to smoke
and excessive light contribute to cataracts. The antioxidant nutrients vitamins
C and E, together with beta carotene may have a protective effect at the site
in and around the lens. A regular intake of antioxidant nutrients throughout
life may reduce macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in
the elderly (4). Bilberry extract may improve vision, especially night-time
acuity, quicker adjustment to darkness and quicker adjustment after exposure
to glare. The anthocyanosides in bilberry offer significant protection in the
development of macular degeneration.
Feet and legs need extra care as we age. Well fitting shoes and sufficient
exercise is important to maintain the circulation and oxygen flow to the legs
and feet, especially in those with varicose or inflamed veins.
High blood pressure (hypertension) can happen at virtually any time of life,
it is more common in later years. It is a major risk factor for a heart attack
or a stroke. High blood pressure is closely related to lifestyle and dietary
factors. For example: coffee consumption, alcohol intake, lack of exercise,
stress, smoking, obesity, high sodium-potassium ratio; high sugar, high saturated
fat, low fibre and low essential fatty acids. Garlic and onions play a role
in reducing both blood pressure and cholesterol, and celery if consumed on a
Incontinence affects women more than men, and is generally associated with a
stress of some kind. Progressive loss of muscle tone and strength, often started
by giving birth, and increasing age are usually blamed. Pelvic floor exercises
are important for maintaining muscle tone, thereby reducing or preventing incontinence.
A doctor should be consulted for advice and to rule out infection as the underlying
cause for this embarrassing condition. By the age of 65 one in seven women wets
herself once a week. Men may become incontinent if the prostate becomes enlarged
or through taking certain types of medication.
Immune health can decline as aging progresses, increasing a persons susceptibility
to infection and malignancy; an increase in the intake of vitamins and minerals
may counteract this.
Memory loss can be associated with age. As we get older we know more people;
we have travelled to more places and we have read, written and absorbed more
information through various sources. Cognitive function needs adequate vitamins
especially B complex including vitamin B12.
Piles are haemorrhoids caused by straining when trying to pass a stool. The
most common cause of piles for women is pregnancy; and for men it is sitting
on the toilet for too long with a newspaper. When men sit on the toilet for
hours, their pelvic floor is unsupported and this allows the anal cushions
to drop down and protrude. Fibre from fruit and vegetables in the diet and perhaps
acidophilus from a supplement or yogurt should encourage easy bowel movements.
Research looking at the relationship between fish in the diet and strokes has
been inconsistent. The types of fish and the cooking method were analysed. The
research concluded that tuna or other types of baked or poached fish is associated
with lower risk of ischemic strokes, while intake of fried fish or fish sandwiches/burgers
is associated with higher risk. Those who do not like eating fish may consider
a fish oil supplement.
Supplementary Factors and Diet
Breakfast is a good way to start the day. Muesli, if soaked with water or apple
juice overnight, is easy to eat in the morning. A good diet with at least five
portions of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh baked or poached fish, lean white
meat, whole grains, pulses, beans and some dairy from yogurt, cheese and milk.
Thorough chewing helps promote enzyme production, which in turn digests the
food. A multinutrient food supplement may be considered to redress the balance
if an elderly person cannot eat much. Poor value foods such as processed, refined,
sugary products with colours and preservatives should be avoided because they
do not add nutrition value to the diet; they have a negative impact by using
precious nutrients for their digestion and elimination.
Tips to Maintain a Healthy Active Life in Later Years
There is evidence to suggest that regular flossing when cleaning the teeth before
going to bed at night will not only keep gums healthy by reducing bacterial
build-up, it can also improve overall health.
Exercise is essential for continued wellbeing in old age. Regular exercise both
aerobic and against weight resistance, is of great benefit to all aspects of
health. Ideally, any place where older people meet should consider some form
of exercise programme. Walking is a good form of weight-bearing exercise that
can help maintain the density of bones*, it is important for both men and women
to help delay the possible onset of osteoporosis. Mental exercises such as crosswords,
reading, writing memoirs, number games, playing card games can all help mental
acuity. "Use it or lose it!"
Poor health in the elderly is not inevitable. People can maintain active and
useful lives well into their 70s and beyond. The lives of those with a health
problem can benefit from following a healthy diet, having as much exercise as
they can, together with fresh air and some sun.
Print this page