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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Diet in old Age

Adequate Nutrition and a well balanced diet are of vital importance in Old age so as to prevent and control the common hazards of Aging. Many factors like poor income, decreased mobility, social isolation and depression are known to affect the health and well being of the elderly. Under nutrition, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis have been identified as the most important and commonly prevalent nutrition related health problems in Old Age.

Diet and Feeding Pattern

Since good nutrition is of immense significance during old age, care should be taken that the diets of elderly are nutritionally adequate and well balanced. With the advancement of age, the energy needs are reduced as a result the total quantum of food intake is lowered while the requirement of most of the other nutrients remains unaltered. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to provide adequate amounts of all the nutrients within the decreased energy levels.

Few factors to be kept in mind while planning balanced meals for the elderly

  • Intake of energy rich foods like sweets, fried or high fat foods, cereals and starches needs to be reduced while liberal amounts of milk and milk products, fresh fruits, vegetables particularly green leafy vegetables, should be included to meet the vitamin and mineral needs.
  • An adequate intake of calcium, in particular, should be ensured to compensate for its losses due to gradual decriminalization of bones associated with aging. 
  • Since sufficient exposure to sunlight is essential to meet the body's needs for vitamin D, in case of elderly individuals confined to bed, supplements of this vitamin need to be provided.
  • Food rich in fats, especially saturated fats, should be avoided and instead oils containing high levels of poly unsaturated fatty acids such as sunflower oils, soybeans oil etc. should be used to prevent and control the condition of hypertension and other cardio-vascular diseases.
  • Intake of simple sugars should be reduced as these provide only empty calories.
  • Dietary fiber has a beneficial effect in various conditions associated with aging such as constipation, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, adequate amount of food rich in dietary fiber should be included in the diet.
  • With the advancement of age, the capacity to digest and tolerate large meals often decreases. Therefore, the quantity of food given at a time needs to be decreased. If required number of meals can be increased as per the individual's tolerance
  • Due to the loss of teeth particularly if dentures are not used, modifications in consistency needs to be done. The diet should be soft, well cooked and should include foods that need little or no mastication such as milk and milk products, soft cooked eggs, tender meats, gruel, soft cooked vegetables, grated salads, fruit juices, soft fruits like banana or stewed fruits.
  • The food for the elderly should be colorful, attractive and tasty and should be served in pleasant surroundings so as to arouse their appetite and interest in the food. 
  • Apart from the diet, the elderly are advised to continue with their physical activity and light exercises to keep fit and prevent the occurrence of diseases like arthritis, gout and obesity. Regular or periodic health checkups and weight monitoring also helps in physical fitness and early detection of complications, if any

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