As we get older, it is natural that our body will change physically. Our muscles, bones and joints may feel a little different as we age and this is perfectly normal. All this means is that we may need to make some adaptations to our lifestyle to help the journey of healthy ageing.
It is easy to assume that a decline in body function is simply a part of ageing.However research shows that much can be done to help maintain normal ability and function. For the ageing body, balanced nutrition and regular physical activity are essential for good health. The benefits apply at all ages.
Healthy and active ageing is closely linked to a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity paired with wise food choices. Good nutrition and exercise work better to slow down age-related health issues when both are a routine part of life. The right intake of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein and fibreare essential for normal body functions, from maintaining muscle to improving digestion.
Eating a variety of whole foods is recommended, yet it is not always easy to have a balanced diet. Recent research has shown that nutrients important for good health might be lacking in the diet of older adults. A feeling of fatigue can be an early sign that the body may be lacking in a certain nutrient or nutrients (however if symptoms persist, it is advisable to speak to your healthcare professional). Other times, issues with weakness, mobility and bowel symptoms may arise.
The following nutrients play an important role in helping the ageing body to continue to perform optimally:
- Protein: contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. With age, there is a reduction in muscle mass and therefore an increased requirement for dietary protein. A loss of muscle tone and feelings of weakness may be signs of an inadequate intake of protein, as well as insufficient physical activity.
- Vitamin D and calcium: essential nutrients that work in harmony to help maintain healthy bones. However, body stores of vitamin D may be low in older people and this can impair the ability to absorb calcium.
- Vitamin C: contributes to collagen formation for the normal functioning of cartilage, which is a key component of joints. Together, muscles, bones and cartilage play a key role in daily activities.
- Water: Adequate fluid intake is needed, as water is involved in virtually every metabolic process. Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions, and thereforegood physical and mental performance.
- Dietary fibre: required to support and maintain a healthy digestive system.
1Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: usual nutrient intakes, 2011-12. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2015. Available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.008main+features12011-12 (accessed May 2016).