The sensory, digestive and metabolic changes that occur with age can sometimes be a real challenge. By following some simple advice you can tackle these changes and enjoy an active and balanced lifestyle.
Calcium is essential for maintaining bone strength. Women are more likely to suffer from weakened bones than men because of the change in hormone levels after menopause. Eating foods rich in calcium and participating in weight bearing exercise is the best way to strengthen bones. Getting some sunlight on most days will also help by stimulating your body to make Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium from your diet.
Exercises for healthy bones
- Resistance/strength training, like using weights to strengthen muscles and bones, water resistance activities in aqua-aerobics.
- High impact exercises like jumping.
- Weight bearing exercises like walking, bowls, tennis, mowing the lawn.
Loss of strength
If you don’t use your muscles regularly through physical activity, they will loose their strength. Weak muscles and bones put you at a higher risk of falls and fractures. As well as strengthening bones, resistance exercise helps to build muscle and increase strength. Examples of resistance exercises include using hand held weights and pushing against a wall. It is also important that you eat enough protein to maintain muscle strength. This will ensure your body has enough protein for repair and growth of muscles with exercise. If you don´t eat enough protein, your muscles will shrink and decrease in strength.
Shedding unwanted kilos
Weight gain is common as people grow older because of changes in metabolism and activity. If you are eating the same as you used to, but not exercising as much, you will gain weight. Being overweight increases your risks of heart, blood sugar and joint problems. With a balanced approach to eating and exercising, you can shed those extra kilos to help you stay healthy.
Irregular bowel habits
With age, the action of digestive acids and enzymes decreases, which makes digestion of food slower than it used to be. Because of this, you may find that your bowel habits are less regular. To help prevent your bowels from becoming sluggish, drink plenty of water and eat plenty of high fibre foods such as wholegrain breads, cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Fibre-rich foods have a natural laxative effect, while water helps prevent stools drying out and becoming hard and difficult to pass. Physical activity can help to keep your bowel movements more regular.
High blood sugar levels
Elderly people are more likely to suffer from high blood sugar levels than younger people. Insulin is the hormone that moves sugar from your blood into your body’s cells where it is needed for energy. If you have been told by the doctor that your blood sugar levels are high, then your insulin is not working as well as it used to. If untreated, high blood sugar levels can cause problems with your heart, eyes and kidneys.
A diet and lifestyle that helps to control blood sugar levels is much the same as the balanced lifestyle we all should follow. This includes:
- Eating regular meals and snacks that contain nutritious carbohydrate foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruit and milk.
- Limiting the amount of foods high in sugar. Foods such as soft drink, lollies, cakes, chocolate and sweet biscuits can be enjoyed as treats, but should not be a regular part of your diet.
- Exercising regularly. Your muscles need to use blood sugar for energy, so when you exercise you reduce your blood sugar levels.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight. Your chances of having high blood sugar increases if you are overweight.
What are some ideas for quick, easy dinners?
- Grilled meat or fish served with cooked vegetables or salad.
- Hamburgers: wholemeal roll with low fat meat patty, tomato, lettuce and beetroot.
- Frozen meals, especially low fat dinners; served with bread, extra rice or pasta and a salad.
- Baked potatoes filled with cottage cheese, vegetables, meat or chicken served with salad.
- Stir-fries using lean beef, lamb, pork or skinless chicken with vegetables andserved with rice.
How do I eat a balanced diet if I have lost my sense of taste?
Learn to increase the taste and aroma of food by adding more herbs, spices and lemon juice. Add a little more crunch by including a variety of different textured foods to make up for your loss of taste. Try a variety of different foods with different flavours to add to the enjoyment of your meal. Include foods of different temperatures, but beware that very hot or very cold foods tend to have less flavour.
I find my food difficult to chew – what should I do?
If you have chewing problems, visit your dentist to have your teeth checked and have your dentures checked (if you wear them). Choose softer foods that are easier to chew (e.g. cooked cereal, cooked or canned fruit, yogurt, milk shakes and tender meats). Chop foods well to make them easier to swallow.
How do I maintain a good quality of life?
To stimulate the appetite and the pleasure of eating include a variety of foods in your diet from the core food groups.