Aging: Nutrition, Exercise, & Safety
For most older people, good health and an active lifestyle is a reachable goal with proper nutrition, medical checkups, treatment of common risk factors, and attention to personal safety.
The risk of heart attacks and strokes is reduced with treatment of hypertension and high cholesterol, quitting smoking, and good control of diabetes.
Periodic check-ups, mammograms, and PAP smears for women help to identify early but treatable diseases. Immunizations (for example, influenza and bacterial pneumonia) help prevent infections.
What should I know about nutrition as I get older?
Nutrition is important throughout life. As we age, the risk of poor nutrition grows due to problems with oral disease, chronic diseases such as heart failure and emphysema, social isolation, financial problems, and a loss of ability to shop or prepare fresh food.
Weight loss (underweight) becomes a more serious problem than weight gain (overweight). Nutrition-related problems — osteoporosis, iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency, and protein-calorie malnutrition — become more evident after age 60.
To stay nutritionally sound, older people should:
- Maintain a comfortable and safe weight.
- Eat a diet balanced in protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Older adults should keep their protein intake at approximately 1-1.2 gm/kg of protein. For example, a 150 pound (70 kg) man should have approximately 70-100 gm of protein daily. If you are very physically active or have an infection or heightened metabolic need, you may need more protein. If you have chronic kidney disease check with your doctor about protein in your diet — sometimes a lower limit is suggested.
In general, get your protein needs from food, not from powdered supplements. Adding non-fat dried milk to drinks and foods (such as coffee, oatmeal, potatoes), however, can increase the protein content safely, since 1 oz (2 tablespoons) contains 3 gm of protein.
(Amounts of protein in different foods are shown in the chart below.)
- Use a multivitamin and mineral supplement if your diet is not balanced, you have been ill, or are losing weight. Vitamins do NOT contain protein.
- Consume approximately 1000 mg of elemental calcium daily and 1,000 units of Vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis and decrease the risk of falls and hip fractures. People with kidney stones or hyperparathyroidism should not use calcium supplements.
There are health claims for supplemental antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and beta carotene. The best way to get these substances is by eating a diet that includes fruits and vegetables.
How much should I exercise as I get older?
Regular physical exercise helps maintain good health and physical independence in old age. Healthful physical activities include:
- Aerobic (endurance) exercises such as walking, swimming, low impact dancing.
- Resistive (strengthening) exercises (after medical clearance) such as weight machines or elastic bands.
- Tai chi and senior yoga to help with balance, strength, and flexibility.
If you haven’t exercised for a long time, consider a personal trainer for proper technique in weights and stretching.
- Choose activities that you like.
- Make physical activity a part of each day.
- Don't overdo exercise—"start slow, go slow."
- Exercise with a friend or group.
- Have fun!
How do I stay safe at home?
Home safety problems become more dangerous as we grow older:
- Slippery bathroom floors or tubs.
- Inadequate lighting.
- Frayed rugs or carpets.
- Loose cords.
- Inadequate heating and cooling systems.
As we age we should consider steps to assure our continued safety and good health:
- Modify the home to fix the problems above to make it safer.
- Stay in contact with family and friends: stay active!
- Plan for future financial need and living situation.
- Complete an advanced directive.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Keep up with your passions and interests.
What foods should I eat?
Below is a guide to choosing foods during the day that have adequate protein. You may wish to meet with a dietician to further guide your food choices.
Meat/Fish (3 ounces)
- Beef: 25g/protein
- Chicken (2 breast): 25g/protein
- Turkey: 25g/protein
- Pork: 23g/protein
- Ground Beef: 22g/protein
- Fish or Shellfish: 21g/protein
- Tuna: 21g/protein
- Salmon: 17g/protein
- Chicken (1 drumstick - 2 oz): 14g/protein
- Sliced turkey/ham (2 oz): 10g/protein
- Hot dog (1): 6g/protein
- Cottage cheese (4 oz): 13g/protein
- Egg substitute (4 oz): 12g/protein
- Soy milk (1 cup): 11g/protein
- Milk (1 cup): 8g/protein
- Yogurt (6 oz): 8g/protein
- Cheese (1 oz hard): 7g/protein
- Egg (1 large): 6g/protein
- Ice cream/frozen yogurt (4 oz): 4g/protein
- Cream cheese (1 tbs): 1g/protein
- Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime® (1): 17g/protein
- Beans, peals, lentils (1 cup cooked): 15g/protein
- Boca Burgers Original Vegan®: 13g/protein
- Soy nuts (1/4 cup): 12g/protein
- Boca Meatless Chick'n Patties®: 11g/protein
- Edamame (4 oz): 10g/protein
- Peanut butter (2 tbs): 8g/protein
- Tofu (3 oz): 7g/protein
- Gardenburger® Original or portabella (1): 5g/protein
- Kashi Go Lean Cereal® (1 C): 13g/protein
- South Beach Diet High Protein Cereal Bars® (1): 10g/protein
- Pasta (1 C cooked): 8g/protein
- Oatmeal (1 C cooked): 6g/protein
- Bread, whole wheat (2 slices): 5g/protein
- Nuts (1 oz): 5g/protein
- Bread, white: 4g/protein
- Cheerios® (1 C): 4g/protein
- Green peas (1/2 C cooked): 4g/protein
- Corn flakes (1 C): 2g/protein