The Importance of Nutrition for Aging Adults

By Liseia Parisian, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

Did you know that by making simple changes to your diet you can reduce your chance of chronic disease such as diabetes by up to 71% and improve your quality of life to get the best out of your golden years? This is a statistic from the National Council on Aging, which also claims that as much as 80% of older adults cope with chronic diseases that greatly affect their ability to take care of themselves which decreases their quality of life. Would you like to make the best of their retiree years but do not know what to do to assist in managing your health conditions? According to Harvard, as you age it can be challenging to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet because you may have decreased appetite and feelings of thirst. Below are some helpful tips to make sure your body is nourished so you can live your best life.

If you suspect you may have a deficiency in something, reach out to your health care provider and ask them to run tests to identify what those deficiencies are and how to adjust your diet accordingly. The Mayo Clinic states nutritional deficiencies can cause anemia which is a lack of red blood cells. Anemia can happen when you don’t get enough vitamins like folate, vitamin C, and vitamin B-12. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, pale or yellowish skin, dizziness, weight loss, mental confusion or forgetfulness, irregular heartbeats, muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, personality changes, and unsteady movements according to the Mayo Clinic.

The best way to make sure you are getting the nutrition your body needs is to eat a variety of foods. St. Barnabas Hospital suggests you can ensure you are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables when you “eat from the rainbow.” Another helpful tip to ensure you are eating enough fruits and vegetables is to fill up half of your plate with nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, as shown by the MyPlate food pyramid.

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of hospitalization among older adults, claims the Cleveland Clinic. As you age, you may have a low fluid intake due to a decreased sense of thirst brought on from aging. Dehydration leads to fatigue which can affect your ability to do certain activities. The European Federation of Bottled Waters discusses the importance of water. Without enough water your body cannot effectively pump blood, excrete toxins and waste via the sweat/urine/stool, lubricate your joints, transport oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, temperature regulate, or absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Mayo Clinic recommends drinking at least eight 8-ounce cups of water a day. You may need to drink more depending on certain factors such as your current state of health, the environment you are in (i.e. when it’s hot outside), and if you exercise, as water is lost via sweat. Drink water throughout the day to make sure you are getting plenty of fluids. To jazz things up you can add high-water content fruits and vegetables to your diet such as cucumber (high in antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C) and watermelon (contains vitamin C and vitamin A) which are also nutrient-rich.

Ask your health care provider if taking a multivitamin supplement is a good idea to ensure that you are at least getting some of your essential nutrients every day. Research published by Medical Hypotheses suggests food-based multivitamins are easier for your body to process because they are taken from food sources and are more bio-available as opposed to multivitamins made with synthetic vitamins. Ask your health care provider if they have any recommendations for a high-quality multivitamin to help meet some of your basic nutritional needs.

Eat more fiber. You can get more fiber in your diet by eating more complex carbohydrate foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, green peas, split peas, and other filling fruits and vegetables. Did you know, according to Mayo Clinic, there are 8 grams of fiber in one cup of raspberries? Healthy and delicious all-in-one!

If you have certain chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or are a recipient of a kidney transplant within the last 36 months Medicare Part B may cover Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) services and other related services. These services can help guide you to make sure that your diet is tailored to your current state of health. Some private health insurance plans may also cover certain nutrition therapy services. You can reach out to your health insurance providers to verify if these services are covered under your health plan or not.

In conclusion, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can do much to manage chronic health conditions or maintain general health if you are not dealing with chronic health issues. Reach out to your health care provider to see if you can do testing to uncover any unknown vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies that could be affecting your health. Take into consideration your health care provider’s feedback on how to manage health conditions. If needed seek the help of a registered dietitian or nutritionist for adjusting your eating habits.

Liseia Parisian is a Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since March 2020. As a Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan, Liseia advocates for seniors and those with disabilities, helping them locate services to increase their quality of life by making sure they have access to food, housing, and healthcare.

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