Nutritional Concerns As We Age

One of the top concerns
for aging Americans is whether they are getting enough of the right nutrients,
not just to maintain health, but in many cases, to mediate the effects of
diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
As we get older, our
metabolism slows down, meaning we don’t need as many calories to fuel our daily
activities, but that doesn’t decrease our needs for nutrients. In fact, as we
age, we may even need more nutrients in order to meet our bodies’ demands. For
instance, our ability to absorb Vitamin B–which our bodies use to help make
red blood cells, increase our cognitive abilities, and to unlock the
energy we take in as food–decreases drastically as we age, often meaning we need
to eat more of it. (Ask your doctor
and/or a registered dietitian before starting to use any supplements.) 
also tend to lose our appetites as we age, and our “thirst cue”
diminishes, both of which can leave us undernourished and dehydrated.
This so-called
“anorexia of aging” can actually lead to greater risks of falls as
well (because our bodies are not strong enough), cognitive decline (largely
because of a decrease in B vitamins, both being ingested and absorbed),
anemia, and immune deficiencies, because we are not getting enough of the
nutrients we need. A lack of physical movement, too little fiber, and too
little water intake can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort as well.
On the other end of the
scale is weight gain as we age, a concern for those with osteoarthritis, as
weight gain puts added stress on already inflamed joints. It’s also a concern
for folks with cardiovascular disease or metabolic diseases as it can increase
risks of stroke, heart attack, and Type II Diabetes. Weight gain–as well as
weight loss–can be seen as a psychological coping mechanism for
depression or as a metabolic problem caused by inappropriate nutritional
balance–both good reasons to go see a doctor.
Another major nutritional
concern for us as we age is drug-nutrient and drug-drug interactions, which is
a key reason to meet with a registered dietitian and your primary care
physician. Drugs can interact with nutrients either diminishing the
effectiveness of the drug or blocking the nutrients from being absorbed. 
So what are the best
things for us to do?
Move! Physical exercise is key to moving nutrients
through your body, keeping muscles and bones strong, and even keeping your mind
Stay hydrated. Even though we may not feel thirsty, our bodies
still need to frequently be replenished with water. Of the six major 
nutrients, water is the most essential!  Our needs for water depend on our
activity levels, the temperature outside, elevation (higher altitudes need more
water), humidity, health, medications…a whole host of things. A safe bet is
to drink a glass or two of water in the mornings and continue to
“re-fill” throughout the day.
Eat more
nutrient-dense foods.
fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and good fats (unsaturated).
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals including
cancer-fighting antioxidants, that our bodies need to stay healthy. Check out
the ANDI index (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to see what vegetables
and fruits rank highest in nutrient density.
Think “Food
Our bodies use
nutrients from food far better than they do nutrients from supplements. A
healthy, balanced diet will often negate the need for supplements (vitamins,
etc.), barring any health problems or nutrient deficiencies.
Talk to your
Ask if there are any
drug interactions you need to be aware of or if there are certain nutritional
needs you need. Every body is unique in its nutritional needs and daily values
are largely based on averages. You may need more or less of a nutrient. Your
doctor or a Registered Dietitian will be able to help you best.

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.