Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour Shares Her Views on How Proper Nutrition is Necessary for a Bodyby Shivani Sachdev Founder & Director
Our body requires proper nutrition for it to function normally and this requirement changes according to age. In old age though the caloric requirement decreases as there is decreased physical activity but the need for vitamins, minerals and nutrients is increased as in old age one is more prone to infections and diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and osteoporosis. Hence, one should take care to include these vitamins and minerals in the diet or take supplements when required.
Sufficient amount of vitamin D is required after the age of 50 years for bone health. Vit D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin”. It is important for calcium and phosphorus absorption that help increase the bone density. It also helps in boosting the body’s immune system. Recently, newer roles of vitamin D have been found as its deficiency has been linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and in the development of certain cancers. It can be produced in the body by sitting in the sunlight during peak sunlight hours. There are many food sources of vit D, such as liver, mushroom, cheese, oily fish, milk and eggs. But only 20% of the recommended daily dose of vit D is obtained from food, the remaining 80% should be obtained from sunlight. The deficiency is treated by either Vit D in injectable form in severe cases or orally in mild to moderate cases.
During ageing process the body cells undergo senile changes, hence antioxidants must be taken to counter the free radicles formed during the process. Vitamin C has excellent antioxidant properties. It helps increase immunity of the body and hence fights infections such as common cold. Also Vit C also helps in the absorption of iron. It is found in citrus fruits, kiwis, papaya, tomatoes, broccoli, dark leafy greens and bell peppers. Severe vit c deficiency is known as “scurvy” and is treated by oral supplementation of vit C. The signs include weakness, tiredness, delayed wound healing, swollen and bleeding gums and other symptoms such as joints pain.
Vitamin E is another vitamin that has good antioxidant property. It plays a role in preventing cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Also its role has been studied in the prevention of cataract (opacity of the eye lens). The foods rich in vit E are tofu, spinach, almonds, avocados, olive oil, shellfish, fish like salmon and papaya. The symptoms would appear in the form of sight problems, neurological effects such as balance problems, muscle weakness, tiredness and easy fatigue due to anaemia.
Vitamin B6 helps in the production of energy in our body, steroid hormone synthesis, red cell production and builds up the immunity. It helps in making neurotransmitters also. The deficiency leads to a decrease in memory and attention. Foods rich in Vit B6 are tuna, sunflower seeds, spinach, bananas, avocados and chicken. Deficiency of c can cause confusion, depression and peripheral neuropathy. It can also cause seizures. The treatment is in the form of oral Vit B6 (pyridoxine)
Vit B12 helps in controlling the levels of homocysteine, the high levels of which have been linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases. The deficiency of Vit B12 leads to gastric and neurological symptoms and anaemia. This deficiency is very common in old age due to the prevalence of atrophic gastritis in this age group where the destruction of the inner lining of the stomach and decreased acid production leads to faulty absorption. Foods rich in Vit B12 are fish, meat, silken tofu, eggs, low fat milk, cheese and fortified cereals (all bran)
Folic acid is required for the proper functioning of the nervous system especially in old age. The deficiency of folic acid can lead to increase in homocysteine levels leading to cardiovascular diseases and also its deficiency has been linked to alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Food rich in folic acid are dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, peas, beans, carrots, almonds, peanuts, avocados and cauliflower.
Mineral Deficiencies in old age
1. SODIUM– Low blood sodium (Hyponatreamia) occurs when there is low amount of sodium in the blood or when there is too much water in the blood. It is common in old age specially when old people are hospitalized or living in long term care facilities.
Signs & Symptoms: - Altered personality, lethargy and confusion. Severe hyponatreamia can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Risk factors for hyponatreamia :-
a. Diuretics (drugs that make you urinate more)
b. Anti depressants
c. Decreased function of kidneys, liver or heart
d. Certain cancers
a. changing a medicationthat affects your sodium level
b. treating the underlying disease
c. drinking adequate amount of water
d. changing the amount of salt in the diet
2. CALCIUM– essential for strong bones and teeth. Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis (brittle bones). It also plays an important role in maintaining health and functioning of nerves and muscular tissue, regulating heart functions, blood clotting and enzyme function.
Sources of calcium: - dairy foods like milk, yogurt, cheese and calcium fortified products such as soy milk and breakfast cereals. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cabbage. Nuts and seeds.
Recommended dietary intake:-
Women 51-70 years – 1300 mg
Men 19-70 years – 1000 mg
Adults over 70 years – 1300 mg
As we age, the skeleton loses calcium and women lose more calcium from their boneshence we need to make sure they get enough calcium in their diet to offset these loses. Calcium supplements can also be taken to maintain the adequate calcium levels in the blood.
3. IRON- For older adults age 65 years and over iron deficiency is the second most common cause of anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia usually results from slow blood loss over time. Bleeding is most often caused by stomach ulcers, abnormal blood vessels or colon cancer. Occasionally not eating enough iron rich foods or when the body is not absorbing enough iron from the diet. Chronic diseases like chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer are most common causes of iron deficiency anaemia in older adults.
Symptoms of iron deficiency – fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, dizziness, and irritability, coldness in hands and feet and headache.
Effects of Iron deficiency Anaemia –Depression, not able to walk long distances, loss of memory, heart trouble and decreased life expectancy.
It can be diagnosed by blood counts and changes in haemoglobin. Serum ferritin is less than 15 ng/ml.
Treatment – iron supplements are given and to identify and treat the underlying cause. For severe cases red blood transfusions are given.
4. CHROMIUM- which is spares in the soil and foods and is often poorly absorbed. Chromium is important for the proper use of blood sugar, functioning in glucose tolerance factor tosupport the function of insulin. Chromium deficiency can be treated by supplements of chromium and brewer’s yeast.
Deficiency of fibre in old age
Fibre in foods is very important for colon health and function. It reduces the incidents of colon cancer and other types of cancers. Eating more fresh fibre foods such as vegetables and whole grains, offers many benefits like maintaining bowel function and avoiding constipation.
A well balanced diet high in vitamins, minerals and basic nutrients and low in fats and refined foods is very crucial in maintaining good health in old age.
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Created on Aug 31st 2017 00:58. Viewed 1,381 times.