No one likes to see their parents age, and maybe that’s because aging has been associated with declining health. This isn’t always the case, as many elders live healthy, active, and long lives. More diseases affect us as we age, but there are ways to combat certain diseases and illnesses.
It’s no secret that as we get older, our bones get weaker. Between the ages of 25 and 30, we reach our peak bone mass and begin to lose some of it at age 40. As we age, our bodies reabsorb essential nutrients from our bones, causing them to weaken. This is why it is important for aging parents to consume a diet that focuses on bone development. Here are the major nutrients (and food examples) that help with bone health.
- Calcium (dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, beans, and lentils) is a key mineral in bone formation and can replace old bone cells.
- Vitamin D (salmon, sardines, tuna, and egg yolk) helps with calcium absorption and ensures proper bone renewal.
- Magnesium (leafy green vegetables) helps form bone minerals.
- Vitamin K (also found in leafy greens) ensures the proper mineralization for our bones.
- Zinc (meat and legumes) is essential for the renewal of bone tissue.
- Protein (meat, eggs, dairy, grains, nuts, and seeds) is the foundation for our muscles and our bones.
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for men and women worldwide, and poor eating habits are one of its causes. Fortunately, there are foods that can help with heart health.
- Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, but rich in fiber and various vitamins and minerals.
- Whole grains are also good sources of fiber and essential nutrients, and they are easy to add to any diet.
- Healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados) have the ability to lower total blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Reducing sodium intake is also important to protect the heart. Increased sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
There are many other issues a proper diet can prevent, such as diabetes. But a healthy diet isn’t the only thing that helps to prevent common diseases.
#2: Physical Activity
Exercise has numerous benefits for the human body, as well as benefiting cardiovascular and bone health. However, it may be hard for your aging parents to engage in vigorous, daily exercise. Fortunately, even moderate exercise has its benefits. Here are a few simple activities that can improve muscle strength and even increase heart rate.
- Walking is a good way to increase strength in the legs. As a mild form of cardiovascular exercise, walking reduces the risk of heart disease and helps maintain a healthy weight.
- Yoga is particularly beneficial for women over 60. Yoga benefits bone and joint health, as well as increases strength and flexibility.
- Gardening may seem like an unlikely form of exercise, but it helps to build strength in the fingers and hands. More intense gardening can build total-body strength and can be a mild form of cardiovascular exercise.
Regular physical activity can also have mental health benefits. When exercising, chemicals in the brain are released that promote happy and calm feelings. Exercise can also promote a good night’s sleep, and many elders experience sleep issues.
Why Nutrition and Exercise are Important for Elders
A healthy, balanced diet, combined with regular physical activity, is known to combat many preventable diseases, and this is especially important for your aging parents. As we age, our bodies can lose nutrients quicker which is why a balanced diet is important. Regular exercise helps increase mobility, which your aging parent needs especially in this stage of life.
Elders with decreased mobility are less likely to be able to live on their own, meaning that they have to live with family or in a nursing home. Many people don’t have the means to care for aging parents (due to work, kids, both, etc.), and placing their loved ones in a nursing home can be a hard decision, especially when hearing stories of nursing home falls and elder abuse. This is why improving your loved one’s quality of life is important to prevent such incidents, as well as diseases. When these instances do occur, that’s when you need to contact the legal resources to hold negligent facilities accountable for their actions.
These tips are important for everyone at any stage of life, but it is especially beneficial for elders, even if they haven’t followed a healthy lifestyle their whole lives. Although it’s important to start a healthy lifestyle from a young age, it’s never too late for any living individual to begin a healthy lifestyle.