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Healthy aging: what is the role of nutrition?

For most people, retirement means freedom, peace of mind and the opportunity to enjoy life’s little pleasures. To fully enjoy these years, it is important to take steps to age well cognitively, socially and physically. For example, aging will be smoother and more enjoyable if we maintain our intellectual stimulation and social relationships, stay physically active, and eat a healthy diet.
In fact, studies show that healthy eating is a key factor in aging well. But why have our dietary needs changed? Let’s see…

Weight and body fat
Normally, we reach our maximum weight between the ages of 50 and 60. This is a normal variation caused by a decrease in basal metabolic rate and a change in our body composition.
The basal metabolic rate is defined as the minimum energy requirement for the body’s vital functions, i.e. breathing, digestion, etc. It decreases from the age of 30 years. implying that if we continue to eat the same way over the years or if we decrease our level of physical activity, our weight naturally increases.

At the same time, with age, fat mass increases and is distributed differently in the body. In particular, there is a redistribution of fat mass in the abdomen, the area where our vital organs are located, which can worsen our health in the medium to long term.

Muscle mass
Similarly, muscle mass tends to decrease by 35% to 45% between the ages of 20 and 80. Sarcopenia, or decrease in muscle mass, makes the muscles less heavy, causing a loss of strength and, incidentally, of functional capacities. It is related to inadequate protein intake, physical inactivity (especially in old age), obesity, and hormonal changes that occur with age, including decreases in testosterone, estrogen and growth hormone.
These changes decrease our balance and strength, increasing the risk of falls and loss of independence.

Bone health
A third change that occurs with aging is the decrease in our bone mass. This occurs for women at the time of menopause, and for men around the age of 80. It is due to hormonal changes, to a decrease in the synthesis of vitamin D by the skin through exposure to the sun, and to a decrease in the activation of vitamin D inside the body.
Decreased bone mass leads to an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis. The impacts have similarities to the consequences of muscle mass loss..

Perception of the senses

The sense of smell begins to decline after the age of 80. The taste buds do not “age”, but their ability to detect flavours may be impaired by medications. These two senses are responsible for the way we taste food and can influence our food choices. For example, we may prefer foods with a stronger taste of salt or sugar, two nutrients that, when consumed in greater quantities, can be detrimental to blood pressure, blood sugar control (diabetes) and weight management.

Perception of the senses
The sense of smell begins to decline after the age of 80. The taste buds do not “age”, but their ability to detect flavours may be impaired by medications. These two senses are responsible for the way we taste food and can influence our food choices. For example, we may prefer foods with a stronger taste of salt or sugar, two nutrients that, when consumed in greater quantities, can be detrimental to blood pressure, blood sugar control (diabetes) and weight management.

Intestines
The fifth change that occurs with age is constipation related to decreased bowel movement. Low fiber intake and decreased physical activity are involved here.
It is recommended to consume fibre found in whole grain products, fruits and vegetables (preferably eaten with the skin on), nuts and legumes. To help determine if a food contains fibre, look for the value on the nutrition label. Two numbers to remember: 5% is a little, and 15% is a lot!

Medications
As you age, you may have to take medications to control all kinds of medical conditions. These medications can have side effects and cause dry mouth, changes in taste, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain and constipation.

Here are nine tips to remember for healthy aging:
– For variations in weight and appetite, we apply the balanced plate that gives importance to all food groups.
– We eat foods that are a source of protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, tofu) at every meal to nourish our muscles.
– We eat foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to keep our bones strong and healthy.
– Limit sodium-rich foods by making informed choices at the grocery store and by making greater use of spices, herbs and lemon juice.
– Include animal foods in your diet to meet your iron and vitamin B12 needs.
– Eat several small meals with healthy snacks throughout the day to keep up with your appetite and to have energy throughout the day.
– Eat fiber (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, wheat bran, legumes) daily with beverages (water, milk, juices, hot drinks) to avoid constipation that can be caused by medication or decreased bowel movement.
– If you regularly have a dry mouth, here are some tips: take a mint, frozen grapes, water with lemon, brush your teeth, etc.
– Whenever possible, we surround ourselves with friends and family to shop, cook and eat. We make these moments enjoyable!

Written by MANHOUCH

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