“Importance Of Eating Healthily As We Start To Age”
When we age, there are many changes, including nutrient deficiencies and inadequate dietary intake that can have a profound impact on our nutritional status. This can start to increase the decline in both physiological and psychological functions that occur as we age.
Studies indicate that many older people produce less stomach acid. Having low stomach acid can affect the absorption of the nutrients that we eat. Stomach acid is Hydrochloric Aci(HCL), and is vital for absorption of iron.
These are some of the major nutrients that can decrease as we age, including:
It is estimated that up to 20% of people aged 50 and over may be low in vitamin B12. This deficiency can become worse as people age, yet it is commonly overlooked until it causes significant health problems.
Low levels can result in:
Anaemia – this means that we have a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood, so anaemia can cause fatigue or shortness of breath.
Neuropathy – this means that the nerves in our bodies are not working as well. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including tingling, numbness, burning, poor balance, and walking difficulties.
Cognitive impairment – this means that the nerve cells in our brain are not functioning to their full capacity. This can cause memory problems, irritability, and even dementia.
2. Calcium and Vitamin D
Alongside the changes to stomach acid enzymes, a change in diet or a loss of appetite, coupled with less exposure to sunlight, can also lower levels dramatically. In the elderly, the skin produces four times less vitamin D when exposed to the sun, as compared to younger people.
In addition, a decrease in the efficiency with which our kidneys can retain the calcium will lead to increased calcium loss in the urine.
Being low in magnesium is often overlooked. Symptoms can include heart irregularities/palpitations or flutters, twitching eyelids, depression, digestive problems, muscle spasms and nightly leg cramps, memory problems, and depression.
Iron-deficiency is the second most common cause of anemia in older people. The main causes of iron deficiency in this age group are blood loss, nutritional deficiencies, medications, cancer therapies, and poor absorption.
Inadequate intake or inadequate absorption of iron can occur in older adults who have poor diets, or who have low levels of stomach acid.
Taking medications that reduce stomach acidity, which is common in older people experiencing reflux, etc., will lower our ability to absorb iron. Also, excessive alcohol intake and thyroid imbalances, amongst other things.
5. Lower Calorie Intake
We also experience a reduced need for calories. Energy requirements start to decline after the age of 50 for woman and around 60 for men. However, our need to consume the same amount of vitamins/nutrients does not.
This means that the importance of a nutrient-rich diet with the correct vitamins and minerals is paramount. Therefore, older adults need to get just as much, if not more, of some nutrients, all while eating fewer calories.
As we age, we may need fewer calories to maintain our weight, since we tend to move and exercise less and carry less muscle.
If you continue to eat the same number of calories per day as you did when you were younger, you could easily gain extra fat, especially around the belly area. This is especially true in post-menopausal women, as the decline in oestrogen levels seen during this time may promote belly fat storage.