Diet and exercise needs change as men and women age


METRO — Maintaining a healthy weight is important at any age. But avoiding being overweight or obese can be particularly crucial for seniors, considering many illnesses are tied to body weight. Maintaining a healthy immune system also can require eating a balanced, nutritionally sound diet.

The Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center at Durham Medical Center in Virginia says people need to change how they eat for every decade they reach. Caloric intake should be reduced because individuals are generally moving around less, have less muscle and their metabolic rates decline. People who find that they are having trouble losing weight in their 50s and older may be basing weight-loss goals on calorie recommendations for younger people.

One challenging thing about eating less overall is supplementing with more nutrient-rich foods. Older bodies still require similar amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals as younger ones, but older men and women must balance that need with their need to consume less calories. Consuming more fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources, including beans, and choosing whole grains over refined starchy foods can be the key.

Watch what you drink, as well. Soft drinks and other sugary beverages may be packed with calories you don’t need. Choose unsweetened beverages and opt for water as much as possible. Protect yourself against dehydration, which can be harder to detect as you get older.

In addition to modifying food and beverage choices and reducing their calorie intake, seniors should continue to exercise. Healthy eating paired with moderate exercise remains one of the best combinations for healthy weight loss or weight maintenance. The goal is to consume fewer calories and expend more energy. While cardiovascular exercises can be a good way to get the heart pumping and stimulate your metabolic rate, as you age you should perform strength-training and weight-bearing exercises as well. Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, and according to the Mayo Clinic if you avoid strength exercises you can eventually lose muscle and increase the percentage of fat in your body. Strength training also helps you develop stronger bones, which can help prevent fractures. In addition, as you gain muscle, your body will begin to burn calories more efficiently, making your time in and out of the gym more productive.

Apart from diet and exercise, aging adults may need to consult with their doctors about nutritional supplements. Your body may produce less stomach acid as you get older, making it more difficult to absorb vitamins from food, including vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Aging skin is less able to transform sunlight into the vitamin, which can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Deficiencies in vitamins D and B12 and calcium can result in a number of health conditions. Routine blood work can help pinpoint whether you are deficient in key nutrients.

The body’s nutritional and fitness needs change as a person ages. Those uncertain about the lifestyle changes they will need to make should speak with their physicians.

R-H Staff

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