Nutrition Healthcare For Older Adults
There’s no doubt about it, we’re all living longer. According to the latest figures life expectancy at birth for men in the UK is 79 years, and for women 83 years (compared with 71 for men and 77 for women in the early 1980s).
Healthier lifestyles can take some of the credit. Even if you have several health conditions, a healthy lifestyle could increase your life expectancy by more than six years, say Leicester University researchers.
Regular exercise and a nutritious diet are only part of the picture, however. Good relationships and a solid social support network are strongly linked with staying healthy and happy as you age, with studies suggesting loneliness could affect health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
With more people living longer, attitudes towards ageing are changing too. But while 60 may well be the new 40, there are still biological hurdles to overcome if you want to live longer with fewer years of illness or disability.
One of the challenges of ageing is we absorb nutrients less effectively as we get older. Nutrient deficiencies, over a period of time, can potentially lead to various health problems, lack of energy, reduced immunity and a ultimately; a poorer quality of life.
Let’s take a closer look at why, and what can be done:
Health experts rightly say you can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy, balanced diet. However, in the hustle and bustle of modern-life, it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits at the best of times.
If you're older, it can be even more difficult to get enough nutrition. Not only are appetites smaller, but there is evidence we absorb nutrients less effectively as we get older.
This leads to common deficiencies in older adults, referred to in extreme cases as age-related under-nourishment (the so-called ‘anorexia of ageing’). Some of the vitamins that can become particularly hard to absorb include:
Vitamin B12: Found in meat, fish, dairy, eggs, yeast extract and fortified foods. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient. According to Age UK it’s harder to absorb B12 as you get older, and studies suggest B12 deficiency is common in older people.
Vitamin D: It’s common for older people to have low vitamin D levels because they may spend more time indoors and their skin produces lower amounts of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium from food, you need more calcium as you age to support vital body functions and because your bones thin faster after 50.
Did You Know? If you take vitamin D and/or calcium supplements it could be a good idea to take vitamin K2 with it. Vitamin D boosts calcium absorption, hence high-dosing over a long period of time can lead to an excess.
Studies suggest K2 can prevent calcium deposits forming in your blood vessels where it can increase risk of blood clots, instead directing it to be stored in your bones and teeth where it is highly beneficial.
Many minerals are important for healthy ageing. Calcium has several important functions. Besides keeping bones and teeth healthy, it’s needed for a healthy heartbeat and blood clotting. And like calcium, magnesium and zinc are 'essential' - which means your body cannot produce these substances by itself, they need to be ingested.
Here are some of the ways magnesium, the 'mighty mineral', supports healthy ageing (EFSA approved claims):
• Reduces tiredness and fatigue
• Maintains bones and teeth
• Keeps muscles healthy (including the heart)
• Maintains normal nerve function
• Supports digestive health (thanks to its laxative capabilities)
Zinc is also crucial to several areas (EFSA approved claims):
• Helps the immune system function normally
• Maintains bone health
• Supports cognitive function
• Maintains normal vision
If you need to treat or protect against a deficiency, then these nutrients are available as single supplements (Such as VitaBright's Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 products). This can be useful as it allows you to control the doses independently, allowing for more flexibility.
Alternatively, many find it more cost-effective and convenient to take a good quality daily multivitamin & mineral product. Vitabright's Multivitamin and Mineral Complex provides 27 high-quality nutrients in one single, easy-to-swallow, daily tablet.
Did you know? Many multivitamin brands contain low amounts of many nutrients, particularly gummies (tasty as they are!). Always compare products.
But even our market-leading advanced formula cannot deliver 100% of everything you need. Magnesium in particular, is simply impossible to fit into a tablet small enough to swallow, alongside everything else. Consider combining your daily multivitamin with a magnesium supplement for all-round nutrition.
Ageing and inflammation
As you get older your body becomes more susceptible to inflammation; scientists call this inflamm-ageing. One theory is ageing exposes the body to higher levels of inflammatory compounds. Whatever the cause, chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues and organs, potentially leading to problems such as:
• Heart disease
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Type 2 diabetes
• Alzheimer’s disease
For this reason, anti-inflammatory supplements are well worth consideration for older adults. For instance, curcumin – the main active ingredient in turmeric – is widely considered a potent anti-inflammatory. In fact studies suggest it might be as effective as some pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory medicines.
You can introduce turmeric into your diet by adding it to your food, but to ensure you are getting high amounts of absorbable curcumin into your system on a regular basis, it might be more convenient to use a high-quality organic turmeric supplement with black pepper, such as VitaBright's Turmeric Curcumin 1440.
Studies also suggest that increasing the ratio of omega 3 fatty acids, naturally found in oily fish, in comparison to Omega 6 fatty acids that are prominent in the western diet, can have potent anti-inflammatory effects as well as contributing to the normal functioning of the heart, brain and eyes.
If you eat a lot of meat & dairy, aren't very fond of fish, or just want to make sure; a high-strength fish oil supplement such as our Super-Strength Omega 3 is a great, tasteless, way to get more of this important nutrient into your diet.
Did you know? Nuts and seeds are often a good source of omega fats, but none more-so than Hemp seed oil. This not only provides complete plant-based protein and contains high levels of various beneficial nutrients including magnesium, zinc and beta-carotene, but it is also known for having the ‘perfect ratio’ of omegas for optimum health (3:1:1 of omega 3, 6 & 9 respectively).
Keeping your gut healthy
As you age your immune system slows down (immunosenescence), and research shows up to 80% of your body’s immune cells reside in your gut.
Keeping your gut biome balanced with more 'friendly' bacteria and less 'bad' bacteria, is linked to maintaining a healthy immune system, aiding digestion, relieving allergies, boosting weight-loss and countless other health benefits.
According to this article, but there could be even greater benefits for the older population, in particular:
• Improved immunity
• Better calcium absorption
• Constipation relief
Fermented foods, yogurt, some breads and natural remedies such as kefir contain various probiotics, but your gut contains billions, if not trillions, of bacteria, so it's no good overloading with just one type.
Each probiotic strain has different properties and abilities, the more diverse the range of cultures present, the more chance your gut will function better.
Hence, if you’re considering taking a probiotic, look for a good-quality, high-strength supplement with billions of live cultures to ensure potency and plenty of different strains to ensure optimum balance (ignore source powder claims).
VitaBright's Advanced Bio Cultures Complex (for instance 😉) contains an impressive 45 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) consisting of 15 sought-after bacterial strains, each one friendly and beneficial in their own unique way.
If you’ve reached that point in your life when health is becoming an increasing concern, or if you are caring for someone older and looking for ways to help more, we hope this break-down has given you food for thought and been useful in working out which nutrients may or may not be relevant to your situation.
Health supplements are not magic potions, but it's fair to say that there are many scenarios where supplementing with additional, good-quality, nutrition could be a realistic and cost-effective way of improving quality of later life.
We’re not suggesting everyone over 50 needs to go and raid their nearest health food store (in fact don't, you’ll find much better deals online!), but if you or someone you care for suffer from any recurring or chronic symptoms; you may want to consider talking to your GP about your diet to see if any of the products mentioned above are worth a closer look, it could be a really positive move.
EDITORS NOTE: #YouCan Care week is a chance to appreciate the thousands of brave and dedicated care workers who've provided crucial support to so many older adults throughout this pandemic.
As well as giving thanks and recognition, the aim is to engage and inspire the next generation of care workers. If that might be you, click-here to find out more.