Monthly Archives: September 2020

Best Foods to Eat for Healthy Aging

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition and exercise can play in helping us age healthfully. 

The Best Foods to Eat as You Age
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy as you get older is to eat a healthy diet. As you age, your body changes, not just in the way you look, but also in how it works.

For instance, your digestion may slow down as you get older, or you may not feel as thirsty as you used to, which can lead to dehydration. These changes are some that most everyone will experience as they get older, but you may also experience other issues– especially if you have any chronic health conditions or other problems. It’s always best to check with your doctor about what type of diet you should follow, but for most people, there are several foods (and drinks) that can help with the changes that aging brings.

Drink Enough Water
As mentioned, as you age, you may feel less thirsty than you used to. But it’s still really important to make sure you are drinking enough water so that you don’t get dehydrated. Dehydration in older adults can lead to all sorts of other problems including fatigue, urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, and even confusion. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in people over 65.

Older adults need to drink at least seven to eight (eight-ounce) glasses of water per day to stay properly hydrated. You don’t have to drink just plain water to stay hydrated. Other non-caffeinated beverages such as tea, fruit juice, and no-sugar-added seltzers are also good choices as well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables since they also contain water.

Blueberries
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E that help to keep your cells healthy. Plus, they’re delicious and easy to digest. Eat them whole or incorporate them into other meals such as a topping for low-fat yogurt, cereal or pancakes, or baked into muffins or desserts.

Yogurt
This superfood can help prevent bone loss by giving your body the calcium it needs as well as aiding digestion. Yogurt is also a good source of protein and Vitamin D. Choose low-fat or non-fat options or Greek yogurt and top it with fruit to get the most health benefits.

Fatty Fish
Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines each week. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your brain sharp and healthy as you age.

Fiber
Getting enough fiber in your diet is especially important as you get older. Fiber helps prevent or ease constipation, and can also lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which can help keep your heart healthy and help prevent Type 2 diabetes. It’s best to get fiber from foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, but if you eat a well-balanced diet and still have problems with constipation, you may want to consult your doctor about taking fiber supplements.

Almonds
Nutrients found in almonds may help prevent the development or progression of cataracts, which are common as you age. Almonds are a source of healthy fat that provides protein, magnesium, and Vitamin E.  Almonds make a great anytime snack or can be used to top other foods such as yogurt or cereal.

Olive Oil
Switch to olive oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter. This healthy fat is good for heart health and can help reduce inflammation, which can lead to diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.

 

 

Why is Food Safety so Important?

As well as being National Healthy Aging Month, September is also Food Safety Education Month, an educational outreach initiative to raise awareness about the steps we can all take to prevent food poisoning.

Keep Your Food Safe
If you’ve ever eaten potato salad that has sat out a little too long at a summer cookout or have unknowingly been served under-cooked meat at a restaurant, then you know first-hand the distress of food poisoning. Unless you’ve personally experienced a food-borne illness, you may not give too much thought to food safety in your everyday life. Food-borne illnesses are completely preventable, and understanding food safety—the proper handling, preparation, and storage of food—is key to prevention.

Food-borne illness is a public health problem. Every year, an estimated one in six Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food. Anyone can get food poisoning, but some people are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from food contamination, including young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Keeping your family safe from food-borne illnesses is actually pretty simple. By following four easy steps—clean, separate, cook, and chill—you can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home. Learn more about all of these steps here.

1. Clean
Germs and bacteria can live in many places around your kitchen including on your hands, in your food, on utensils, and on cutting boards and countertops. That’s why proper cleaning is so important.

  • Wash your hands often and the correct way. It’s best to use plain soap and water: skip the antibacterial soaps, and wash your hands under warm, running water for at least 20 seconds while scrubbing your palms, backs, between the fingers, and under the nails. Rinse your hands well and dry thoroughly with a clean, dry towel.
  • Clean surfaces and utensils after each use. Use hot soapy water to clean all dishes, utensils, and cutting boards, and wipe down countertops especially after cooking or preparing raw meat, seafood, or eggs. Be sure to wash all dish towels in hot water on a regular basis.
  • Wash your fruit and vegetables by rinsing them under plain, warm, running water. Using soap, bleach, or specially made produce washes is not necessary. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Do not wash meat, eggs, or poultry.

2. Separate
Preventing cross-contamination of different foods is the key to preventing food-borne illnesses.

  • Use separate dishes and cutting boards for produce, meat, seafood, and eggs. Use separate utensils for raw or cooked foods.
  • Wash all dishes, utensils, and cutting boards in hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher.
  • Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in individual, sealed plastic bags, and store them in the refrigerator. If you don’t plan to use them in a few days, place them in the freezer.
  • Store eggs in the carton they came in, and place them on a shelf in the refrigerator and not on the door.

3. Cook
Always cook food to the correct temperature to ensure that you kill any germs that can cause illness.

  • Invest in a good food thermometer, and use it to test the temperature of the cooked food by placing it into the thickest part of the food. Use this chart to determine if your food is cooked to the right temperature.
  • If you’re not serving food right away, keep it hot by storing in a chafing dish, slow cooker, or warming tray.

4. Chill
Refrigerate and freeze food properly to prevent spoilage and food-borne illnesses.

  • Place perishable foods in the refrigerator within two hours of purchasing from the store.
  • Store leftovers in individual containers and refrigerate immediately.
  • Do not thaw or marinate food on the counter, only do so in the refrigerator.
  • Regularly check food in your fridge, freezer, or pantry for expiration dates. Throw out any food that is past its expiration date or otherwise looks or smells spoiled. Use this guide for recommended storage times for different foods.

 

The Importance of Exercise As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the role exercise can play in helping us age healthfully.

Exercise and Aging

Exercise is important at any age but can be especially beneficial for seniors. It can reduce the risks of chronic disease, improve mobility, reduce the risk of injuries and bone loss, boost mood, and help maintain cognitive function.

However, many older adults become more sedentary as they age, especially those age 60 and older. As you become less active, your fitness and strength levels decrease. With these changes, older adults can become less able to do activities they did when they were younger, so they may further reduce their activity and continue the cycle. This can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, which increases the risks of other diseases and early death.

The good news is that there is never an age when it’s too late to start exercising and reaping the benefits. Middle-aged and older adults can extend their life expectancies by becoming more physically active, no matter what their past activity levels were. Beginning an exercise program later in life can have the same benefits as participating in sports or vigorous exercise decades earlier.

Never too late to start
It may seem daunting to start exercising in middle age or later, but even as little as 20 minutes of walking per day can reduce your risks for early death by 20 percent over time. If you increase those 20 minutes to an hour or more, then you see a 35 percent reduction.

Other low-impact activities (such as yoga or Pilates) can also have benefits that can help with keeping muscles and bones strong and help with mobility as you age. Swimming or water aerobics are also good choices as they are gentle on your joints and can be helpful if you suffer from arthritis or other joint problems. The key is to find an activity you enjoy and are most likely to stick with on a regular basis.

Below are some of the benefits of exercising as you age for your health:

  • Disease prevention. Regular exercise can help reduce or delay the risk of developing diseases like cancer, stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Some research has also suggested that seniors who exercise at least three times per week have a 35 percent lower risk of developing dementia.
  • Improved balance, stability, and mobility. The most common injury for seniors is falls. Regular exercise can improve balance and stability to prevent falls, as well as improving mobility for day-to-day activities.
  • Maintaining muscle mass and preventing bone loss. Muscle mass begins to decline when we hit middle age and continues to decline with each decade of life. Maintaining muscle mass is critical to keeping strong and maintaining mobility, so you can remain independent as you age.
  • Improved quality of life. Exercising regularly improves your mood and can help ease symptoms of depression.

With exercise, remember, consistency is much more important than intensity. Find something you enjoy doing and start slowly, at a pace that is easy to sustain.

Nutrition Needs As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition can play in helping us age healthfully.

Changing nutrition needs as we age
You may have been a healthy eater in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, but as you hit middle age, your nutritional needs will change, and you may need to modify your diet to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.

Aging causes a variety of changes in the body, including muscle loss, thinning skin, digestive changes, and bone mass loss. Some of these changes can lead to nutrient deficiencies or affect your quality of life. One major challenge in meeting your nutritional needs is that as you age, you need fewer calories. This creates a dilemma: you may need just as much, or more, of certain nutrients, but you’ll need to get them eating fewer calories. One way to deal with this dilemma is by eating a diet rich in whole foods and also by taking a nutritional supplement.

Fewer calories, more nutrients
Older adults may need fewer calories to maintain their weight since they tend to exercise and move less and have less muscle tone. One reason older adults tend to gain belly fat is because they continue to eat the same amount of calories as when they were younger, but they are less active. This is especially true for women post-menopause, as a drop in estrogen levels has been directly linked to fat storage in the midsection.

What can be difficult is that as you age, you need higher levels of certain nutrients than you did when you were younger. These nutrients include vitamin D, calcium, protein, and fiber. That is the reason it is important to eat a varied diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish.

Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health. Calcium helps maintain bone health, while vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb the calcium. Eating enough dairy products and leafy, green vegetables can help you get enough calcium in your diet, but if you are deficient in Vitamin D, your body will not process the calcium correctly and could result in bone loss.

Many older adults are deficient in Vitamin D as skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin from foods and sunlight, so they may need additional Vitamin D supplementation. Talk with your doctor about your specific needs for these two important nutrients.

Protein
Even though you need fewer calories as you age, it’s important to still get enough protein. Protein is vital for tissue growth, repair, and maintenance. Most adults need between 45-60 mg of protein per day. Good choices for protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and legumes.

Fiber
Eating enough fiber is even more important as you age. Not only can it help keep you regular, it can also lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also good for your skin and can aid in weight loss. Women over 50 should get at least 21 grams of fiber each day, while men over 50 should aim for at least 30 grams per day.

Fiber is best when consumed naturally from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be taken as a supplement, which can be helpful if you suffer from constipation, which is common as you age and your digestive system changes. Talk with your doctor about your specific fiber needs.

A word about water
Older adults can become more prone to dehydration because their sense of thirst is not as acute. Drinking enough water every day is also important to reduce your risks of urinary tract infections (which can be more common as you age) as well as reducing risks for constipation and confusion.

To stay hydrated, you don’t have to stick to plain water. Beverages like seltzers, non-caffeinated herbal teas, and juices can count toward your daily water intake; just be careful of extra calories, especially in fruit juices. You can also get water from fruits and vegetables especially watermelon, berries, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Eating a healthy diet that focuses on getting these important nutrients, as well as drinking enough water, can help you stay healthy as you get older.