Do you just want to to live longer or do you want to live longer and live well?
In addition to a long life we also want a long life but with high quality for as long as possible, the kind of life that allows us to travel and enjoy our retirement, to run around with our grandchildren without aches and pains, and to generally enjoy life feeling good in our bodies, minds, and hearts.
First thing is first - Good nutrition and lifestyle habits are our best tools to improve our lifespan.
By creating good habits when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle this can have a major effect on healthspan. It is a good idea to start this as young as possible, but making nutrition and lifestyle changes can make a difference even after we start noticing signs of aging.
Now, these changes aren’t going to stop aging, but they can certainly help you age better and become more resilient.
Common Changes In Older Age
Energy: Can be weaken due to nutrient deficiencies, sedentary lifestyle and hormonal changes.
Cognition: Reduced due to neurodegeneration and nutrient deficiencies.
Immunity: Increased risk of illness and infection.
Bones: Weakened due to nutrient deficiencies, sedentary lifestyle, and hormonal changes.
Hormones: Changes in sex drive, mood, energy and body.
Metabolism: Reduced appetite, nutrient absorption and blood sugar control
Mobility: Loss of strength, muscle ,mass and flexibility.
Now, how and when we age is hugely influenced by lifestyle!
Most of us have great bodies at 18, we are slim, pain-free, resistant to illness and injury. By 68, we might groan about our soft midsection, our bum knee, or our high blood sugar, in some cases even before the age of 68!
We might call these changes “aging”. But much of what we call “aging” is actually very much an accumulation of lifestyle habits.
The soft midsection, the knackered knee, the high blood sugar are often the result of:
Eating too much crap
Lots of sitting
Too much stress
Lack of sleep
Too much alcohol
Another 68-year-old who practiced habits like mindful eating, regular movement, strength training, and a nutritious diet might not see those symptoms appear until much later, or perhaps ever.
How We Age
In older age, good nutrition is more important than ever.
In general, because of the physical and lifestyle changes that tend to go along with aging, the need for overall calories is decreased. However, the need for nutrition, in the form of nutrient-dense, well-absorbed foods and targeted supplementation, is more important than ever.
Dehydration risk is higher among older adults. This may be due to side effects from prescription medications, or a reduced sense of thirst.
Worsens constipation; increases risk of bladder infection and kidney injury; thickens mucus in lungs, aggravating asthma or lung conditions; andreduces mental performance and increases fatigue.
Older adults should consume 2-3 liters of liquids per day in the form of water (ideally), herbal teas, broths, or liquid-based foods like smoothies and soups. Adjust amounts as needed according to medication requirements, if applicable.
Use the below chart to assess hydration levels.
As we age, we may develop “anabolic resistance”, which is when protein synthesis decreases. In other words, we need more protein to do the same job.
Healthy older adults should aim to get at least 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Malnourished or ill seniors should aim to get 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or more with severe illness.
For a person who weighs 68kg (150lbs), that translates to about 80-100g of protein, or about 4-5 palm-sized servings of protein per day.
The only caution is in those with kidney problems. In those cases, consult with a doctor, Registered Dietician, or other certified nutrition professional, to determine appropriate amounts.
Choose proteins that are soft and easy to digest, such as stewed meats or poultry, soft cooked fish, well-cooked legumes, scrambled eggs, and good quality protein powders.
Good quality carbohydrates help meet energy needs and add fiber to the diet, which prevents constipation.
Aim to get about 25 grams of fiber a day from soft, easy to digest carbohydrates such as well-cooked whole grains and porridges, well-cooked legumes, well-cooked root vegetables, fruits, and powdered fibre supplements..
Fats play an important role in inflammation regulation.
Reduce or eliminate trans fats (which tend to be high in processed foods), and moderate saturated fats (like animal fats) and lesser quality omega-6 fats (like corn or soybean oil).
Encourage good quality omega-6 (like extra virgin olive oil and avocado) and omega-3 fats (from foods like sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, flax, chia, hemp seeds, and walnuts). Aim for about three servings of fat-rich foods per day, from a mix of quality sources.
Tip: Consume a colorful, balanced, whole foods diet. Prioritize nutrient-dense foods first, but don’t be militant about removing all treats; pleasure is important too!
Evidence-based supplements that can help.
Multivitamin (senior’s formula with low or no vitamin A): Promotes general health; reduces the risk of illness and micronutrient deficiency.
Probiotics: Improves digestion and immunity.
Fiber: Reduces constipation and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
Vitamin D: Reduces risk of chronic disease, particularly osteoporosis and cancer.
Omega 3: Modulates inflammation and contributes to eye, skin, and brain health.
Protein & Creatine: Helps preserve lean tissue (muscle and bone mass); decreases frailty.
Digestive enzyme: Aids breakdown of food, easing digestion and enhancing absorption of nutrients.
Glucosamine: Preserves and builds healthy joint tissue; may reduce pain in osteoarthritis.
A lot of the above information was taken from the Precision Nutrition Article - Nutrition For Seniors