Managing Health Issues of the Elderly
As people tend to age, gradual change becomes apparent in their lifestyles. Usually, the early signs include a loss of appetite and difficulty in absorption of nutrients which can result into nutritional deficiencies for senior citizens. There are deeper, elderly nutrition-related problems nutritional deficiencies and chronic diseases that slither underneath and can affect the immune systems. Some of these problems, psychological as well as physiological, are listed as follows:
All over the world, more than 80% of people beyond 55 years of age seem to get affected by osteoarthritis (OA), with knee-related OA being a cause for concern with the Indian population. In arthritis, the immune system attacks soft tissues of the body which leads to cartilage damage. This, at times, may lead to several balance disorders for the elderly.
2. Cardiovascular diseases
The incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure) in the elderly population rises due to the process of ageing. This could further lead to cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc. Adoption of a healthy lifestyle and a measured diet is what helps in hypertension management.
3. Mental health problems
Depression has been one of the leading mental health issues amongst senior citizens in India. This could further lead to an imbalance in nutrient consumption. Some other diseases that can impair cognitive functioning include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, etc.
4. Respiratory diseases
Due to a weakened immune system, the elderly are more prone to a host of respiratory illnesses, a trait that was more than evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. This happens due to gradual decline in lung function.
It is important that seniors ensure that there are sufficient nutrients in their diet. Some of the important ones being –
• Calcium & Vitamin D
Together, they are essential for bone health. Usually found in dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and dairy products. Exposure to early morning sunlight can also increase Vitamin D intake. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and can help maintain adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralisation of bone. Include foods like ragi, makhana, and sesame seeds for a daily dose of calcium.
These help in the metabolism of protein and smoothens cognitive functioning. Sources of these vitamins are usually found in whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, and fish.
• Vitamin C
This is a ‘healing’ nutrient, works towards tissue resilience. Also contains antioxidants that strengthen the immune system. Usually found in oranges, lemons, tomatoes, amla and capsicums (yellow, green, red).
Aids in glucose and blood pressure regulation. Usually found in dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds
• Dietary Fibre
Helps maintain a good digestive system, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Usually found in pulses, fruits and vegetables.
• Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are also important in the diet. The fats should be consumed are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are found in nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils and fish. Always choose foods that are low in saturated fat and trans-fat to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
A well-balanced nutrition plan for seniors citizens, coupled with light physical and mental health exercises, is the answer to today’s rising elderly health problems. Along with ensuring a proper diet, it is important to consult your health care providers and get their advice on your nutritional needs.
- Effects of Osteoarthritis on Quality of life in Elderly Population of Bhubaneswar, India [NCBI]
- Hypertension in the elderly [NCBI]
- Mental health problems among inhabitants of old age homes: A preliminary study [NCBI]
- The aging lung [NCBI]
- The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep [NCBI]
- Dietary Patterns and Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Systematic Review [NCBI]
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