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.