Nutrition is know to interact with the process of aging in many ways. Nutrition problems of the older population are increased due to susceptibility to chronic disease, decreased organ function which may affect digestion and absorption, metabolism, and excretion of nutrients. Eighty percent of people over 65 suffer from at least one chronic disease and nutrition is an important factor on there prevention and recuperation from the disease.
Caloric needs change with aging due to a greater percentage of body fat and lower percentage of lean muscle. Decreased activity can cause further decreases in calories. The challenge is to meet the same nutrient needs as when younger but consuming fewer calories. The answer to this is to choose nutrient dense foods. Protein needs are not thought to change for the elderly, although protein requirements may vary due to restrictions or disease.
Reducing the overall fat content in the diet of an elderly person is reasonable , it is eating no more than 30% of daily calories from fat is desirable. Carbohydrate intake should comprise 60% of the calories. Emphasis should be placed on complex carbohydrate. Glucose tolerance decreases with age and lower refined carb intake puts less stress on your body. Dietary fiber intake is also recommended , and with adequate fluid intake you can achieve normal bowel function. Fiber is also thought to reduce inflammation of the intestines. Veggies, fruits , grain products, cereals, seeds, legumes, and nuts are all good sources of dietary fiber.
Water is the most important and serves many essential functions. Adequate water intake reduced stress on the function of kidneys, which kidney function tends to decline with aging. Consumption of 5-8 glasses of water every day can be beneficial. Aging people do not realize that they are thirsty and can easily become dehydrate and water intake should automatically occur and should not wait till you feel thirsty. It is important that diets planned for the elderly have proper fluid intake.
As the body ages food may not seem as appetizing or smell as appealing due to loss of smell and taste. If an elderly person is told to cut down on salt or sugar food may not be as good to them any more because they need extras for taste. Loss of vision may impair cooking with aging . An elderly person may not know how to read food prices, nutrition labels or may forget how to cook or have fear to cook. These losses are not usually complete but may affect one’s ability to eat healthy.
The need for electrolytes, sodium, and potassium can be altered in the elderly when drugs are used to control certain diseases such as hypertension or heart disease and diet should be modified to fit those needs. The fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and usually it is thought that the elderly are at lower risk of fat soluble vitamin deficiencies. There is a risk of vitamin A toxicity and vitamin D defiecenicy due to low intake of dairy products. Of all the minerals iron and calcium intakes have been reported to be low in many elderly. Eating a wide selection of foods, including calcium rich foods and low fat diary products is the best advice.
Nurtitional assessments are often done by health care providers because it can help determine is symptoms a patient has is a nutritional deficiency. Overall for any age group, selecting foods from a wide variety which can be eaten and enjoyed is what is important.