As we get older, many changes occur in our bodies as biological processes slow down, visual and hearing acuity declines, kidney function declines, and your heart has to work a little harder than usual to perform daily activities. However, this natural aging process can be alleviated by providing your body with the proper nutrition that will slow such decline and decrease your disease risk.
According to the CDC, 40.6-percent of adults aged 45-64 in the United States are hypertensive, or have high blood pressure. This number climbs to 70.6-percent after the age of 65. This finding correlates with the fact that approximately 70-percent of adults 45 years of age and over in the United States are overweight or obese, with the majority of individuals being obese. According to local 2008 statistics, 34.9-percent of adults in the Baltimore-Towson area are obese, with 17-20% of adults 65 years of age and older living with diabetes.
From these statistics, it is clear that the greatest health issues in older adults are heart disease and diabetes, both nutrition-related diseases, the former of which has been associated with how the brain ages. Therefore, risk of developing such disease can be decreased by adopting healthy behaviors that include eating a nutritious diet, engaging in physical activity, and participating in annual health screenings to keep track of your health status. Currently, only about one-third of men and women in the Baltimore-Towson area are up-to-date with clinical preventive services such as colon cancer screenings and vaccines, and only 27.4-percent of older adults are participating in physical activity outside of normal activities.
Here are some tips the healthy adults can use to develop a healthy lifestyle for themselves:
1.) Eat a heart healthy diet: Consuming whole grains instead of processed white bread, pasta, and rice products and increasing fruit and vegetable intake can increase daily fiber intake, which can improve digestive health and aid in lowering cholesterol levels. In addition, replacing intake of higher fat meats and processed meat products with lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and fish, can lower total saturated fat intake, and thus decrease cholesterol levels in the blood.
2.) Increase physical activity: Just 30 minutes a day of physical activity such as walking or jogging, in addition to normal daily activities, can aid in improving your cardiovascular health.
3.) Consume adequate calcium daily: Osteoporosis is another great health risk to older adults, with hip fractures constituting a major amount of illness and disability in older adults. An intake of three servings of calcium-rich foods each day can decrease risk of such bone disease. Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses can be incorporated into snacks and meals easily to provide you with your daily calcium needs.
4.) Go to regular health screenings: Regular cholesterol, blood sugar, and cancer risk screenings can provide you with the information you need to help you create a lifestyle geared towards improving those aspects of your health that need the most help. Many area hospitals provide free to low cost screenings for many health determinants.
For additional information on nutrition resources for older adults in Maryland, visit the Maryland Department of Aging Health Promotion website or email me with any questions you may have.