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Eating Well

Eating Well as You Age: Good Nutrition for Seniors

(ARA) – Just like people of any other age group, seniors should pay attention to what they eat and drink. As people age their bodies become less forgiving, and it takes more of an effort to stay fit. More than ever, a healthy diet is needed to maintain good health and ease the aging process.

For some older adults, however, getting proper nutrition is a challenge. Many are less active than they used to be, and have less of an appetite. Some people also experience a decrease in their sense of taste and smell, which makes food less appealing. Others may enjoy food less because of dentures, or because their appetites are affected by prescription medicines and other health problems.

For these reasons, some seniors may have very specific dietary needs. The eldercare services staff members at Beverly Healthcare suggest that the following nutritional guidelines for seniors should be discussed with the appropriate health care professional to ensure proper nutritional needs are being met. Additionally, if your loved one is a nursing home resident, they recommend discussing these recommendations with your family member’s caregiver.

* Seniors may want to consider limiting the total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in their diets. As a person ages, lean body mass is lost and body fat increases. Too much fat is especially dangerous for those who have risk factors for heart disease, some types of cancer and high blood pressure. Seniors may reduce fat and cholesterol by limiting the addition of butter, margarines, oils and creams to foods and choosing lean cuts of meat such as chicken, fish and pork loin.

* Keep an eye on salt intake. Some salt is necessary, but some seniors should avoid foods with a lot of sodium, especially if they are prone to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also another factor leading to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Choosing fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned, avoiding processed meats such as hotdogs and salami as well as selecting low sodium soups, can help reduce sodium intake.

* Bones weaken as a person ages. Seniors can improve the strength of their bones by eating calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy products, leafy green vegetables and canned fish like salmon or sardines. Research shows that proper nutrition and exercise can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by 50 percent or more. Women are especially prone to this bone disease, and should consider planning their meals accordingly.

* Fiber can be more important than ever. Eating adequate amounts can help prevent constipation and gastrointestinal disease. High fiber foods include legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, bran, nuts and seeds.

* Calories count. As a person ages, they become less active and their need for calories to maintain an adequate weight decreases. And when a person eats less, they need to make sure that what they do eat is nutrient-dense and low in fat. Seniors who are overweight are at an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer. Eating a variety of foods including fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting processed foods such as chips and getting active every day can help with weight control.

* It is crucial for those over 60 to drink enough water. Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for the elderly. As a person ages, total water in the body decreases, and there is often a reduced sense of thirst. A person may not drink enough to satisfy the body’s needs (about 6 to 8 glasses a day). Seniors can increase the consumption of water by eating ice chips, creating a routine of drinking a glass first thing every morning, replacing some beverages such as soda with water and eating foods with high water content such as homemade soups, gelatin desserts, melons, and other fresh fruits.

Beverly Healthcare staff wants to remind family members to be aware of the particular nutritional needs of seniors. The right diet can make a big difference in the health and well being of a loved one.

For more information on a Beverly Healthcare nursing home in your area, visit www.beverlycares.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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