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Eat Well - Age Well

Rolling into your senior years

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Eat Well - Age Well

If 60 is the new 40, what it means to be elderly has certainly changed. Supplements may be beneficial for seniors who want to keep on rolling.

Getting older isn’t what it used to be. Seniors are staying active well into their golden years, people are retiring later, and 60 is the new 40. The latest generation of retirees is more active and health-conscious–and living the motto “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”

In order to keep the engine running smoothly as we age, proper nutrition is important, and nutritional supplements are a useful tool to ensure we cover all the nutritional bases.

The best way to choose appropriate supplements is to consult with a knowledgeable nutritional consultant, health store advisor, or health care practitioner, but here are some general recommendations on supplements that may be beneficial for seniors who want to keep on rolling.

Vitamin D

Adequate blood levels of vitamin D have been associated with a reduced risk of developing various health problems, including cancers. Found in only a few foods such as fortified dairy products and fish liver oils, the body’s main source of vitamin D is sun exposure.

In some parts of the world, including Canada, we do not receive adequate rays to produce vitamin D all year round; some parts of the country may only receive adequate sunshine for 50 percent of the year.

In addition, fear of sun-induced skin cancers leads many to cover up with clothing and sunscreen during the sunnier parts of the year. With age, decreased absorption and activation of vitamin D in the body only adds to the problem.

As a result, increasing age can easily be associated with decreased blood levels of vitamin D. To resolve this deficit, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends a daily supplement of 1,000 IU. For some people, even higher doses may be required; talk to a health care practitioner about testing vitamin D levels to determine the most appropriate dose.

Eye on Antioxidants

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of age-related vision loss in North America. This condition generally causes a painless but progressive destruction of the part of the eye that allows us to see fine detail, and it can significantly impair our ability to read, drive, or see things clearly.

Depending on the type of AMD, early symptoms can include blurred vision or straight lines appearing crooked. Any changes in vision should be immediately assessed by a health care practitioner.

A diet rich in green vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of developing AMD, and for those with early stages of the disease, research has shown that a combination of antioxidants and zinc can help to prevent the advance of AMD symptoms.

Those who have early AMD or advanced AMD in one eye, or those with a family history of AMD, should consider supplementing with a formula or combination of supplements that provides a daily total of 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta carotene, 80 mg of zinc, and 2 mg copper.

Fish Oils

Regular intake of fish oils is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in adult Canadians, fish oil should definitely be on your health list.

In addition to helping to lower high triglyceride levels, fish oils also have well-known anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation has been identified as a contributing factor to many illnesses, including heart disease, and this makes fish oils an ideal candidate as a heart-healthy nutrient.

For those who don’t like the idea of eating a lot of fish, or who are concerned about possible heavy metals or other contaminants, fish oil supplements are a good alternative. Because Canadian fish oil supplements are required to be tested for various contaminants, including heavy metals and pesticides, consumers can rest assured that Canadian products are free of contaminants.

Multivitamins

Sometimes it can be difficult to get all the nutrients we need from diet alone. A daily multivitamin can help meet basic nutritional needs. For seniors, it is generally best to choose an iron-free multi that includes a good dose of B vitamins and antioxidants, along with calcium and vitamin D.

Don’t Forget Exercise!

Following a nutritious diet can go a long way toward staying healthy as we age, but exercise is also key to ensuring a long, active life. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of many, if not most, age-related diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

A strong body reduces the chance of falls–a major cause of injuries in seniors–and can add many years of independent living. Exercise is not only good for the body, but it also helps to keep the mind sharp; research is showing that regular physical activity can help to support mental functioning and even to slow mental deterioration in those with dementia.

Don’t let that moss gather–keep on rolling!

Get Fit

To stay healthy, seniors should try to engage in some of these four main types of exercise:

  • Endurance activities, such as walking, swimming, or riding a bicycle–build staying power and improve the health of the heart and circulatory system
  • Strengthening exercises, using machines, free weights, or even household items such as soup cans as weights–build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss
  • Stretching exercises for the calves, thighs, stomach, chest, back, shoulders, and arms–keep the body limber and flexible
  • Balance exercises, which can be done in tandem with strength training–reduce the chances of falling and the resulting loss of independence
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