By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
We all know that it is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet which delivers all the vitamins and nutrients that we need to function properly. However, many people don’t stop to consider how their nutritional requirements change as they get older. As October 1st was the International Day of Older Persons, I thought this would be a good time to take stock of what you can do to ensure that you or your loved ones who are over the age of 70 are getting the nutrition needed.
As you get older, your metabolism slows down, so you need less calories than before. Our lifestyles also change, which impacts the calories we consume. This is when portion control is critical, as is learning to stop eating once you are no longer hungry. For instance, someone who worked out every day and gradually decreases the frequency of their exercise, must take care to reduce the amount they eat accordingly.
Nutritionally, we also need to increase our intake of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin B12. It is estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of seniors have a B12 deficiency, which is significant because it is vital to the body’s metabolic process and a key ingredient for the function of the immune and nervous systems, as well as producing red blood cells. A lack of B12 in your diet can increase the chances of heart disease, certain cancers, anaemia and eyesight deterioration. Eggs, dairy, meat and seafood all contain substantial stores of B12.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women over the age of 51 (post-menopause) and men over 70 should aim to consume 1200mg of calcium a day. Calcium is the bedrock of our bones and a deficiency can result in loss of bone mass or osteoporosis. Again, dairy is a reliable source of calcium, but many green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale and bok choi are also an option.
Conversely, it is wise to reduce the amount of sodium that we eat as we get older, as it can contribute to raised blood pressure and heart disease. Adding salt to your meal is okay in moderation; the greater danger is salt in prepared or processed foods that are bought rather than made at home.
There are many factors that can affect our appetites and enjoyment of food as we get older, including: diminished taste and smell. A good mix of food and variety can help to combat this: ensuring that your plate is a range of colours is a good indicator that it is balanced and will be visually appealing. Spices can be used liberally to maximise flavour, without adding additional sodium.
Those who are concerned that they might not be getting all the nutrients they need from their food should invest in supplements. There are a number of multivitamins which are specially formulated for seniors available to buy at Lindo’s, such as One-A-Day 50+ Vitamins, Centrum Silver and Nature’s Truth ABC Complete 50+ Multivitamin. These multivitamins also come in male or female varieties, to ensure that you’re getting everything you need. If you have specific age-related health concerns, please consult a pharmacist who can advise you.
Bermuda has a large population of older people, with 50 per cent of the population being over the age of 43 – among the highest in the world, beating the United States and the United Kingdom. We are fortunate that so many of our seniors lead such active and rich lives, but we can all help our seniors by ensuring that we give our bodies the tools they need to work at their best all through our lives.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.