Nutrition & Fitness

Nutrition and Fitness

Seniors may face a variety of health-related problems. Uncontrolled, these problems can greatly affect both the quality of seniors' lives and their independence. As studies show, health-related problems are exacerbated not only by age but also by poor nutrition, inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol, failing to control underlying medical disorders, and smoking. By taking an active role in maintaining their health, seniors will be better able to fend off or altogether avoid some of the health-related problems commonly brought on by aging.

Scientific research confirms that good nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyles are key to longevity and prevention of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease. Seniors seeking overall good health and increased longevity need to address the following important components:

  • proper diet and nutrition
  • physical fitness
  • functional fitness
  • strength training
  • aerobic conditioning
  • muscle building and fat loss
  • not smoking
  • restricting alcohol intake

According to the Administration on Aging (AoA), the combination of unhealthy eating and physical inactivity is responsible for 14 percent of preventable deaths per year (AoA, 2003). Only tobacco use causes more preventable deaths in the United States.

Poor nutritional health results froma  variety of factors, including eating too little or too much, eating the same foods day after day, or not eating nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and fiber. Poor health may also result from skipping meals, a practice that an estimated on in five adults performs daily.

Nutritional health can also decline due to acute or chronic illnesses that cause a change in eating habits. For instance, disease that adversely affect oral health (i.e., mouth, teeth, gums) can make eating unpleasant or even painful. In fact, poor oral health is not uncommon in seniors. Studies show that many have missing, loose, or unhealthy teeth, making eating difficult. Poorly fitting dentures are also cited as a common problem that exacerbates eating difficulties.

Other contributing factors to poor nutrition in seniors include:

  • economic hardship
  • reduced social contact
  • multiple medications
  • involuntary weight loss or gain
  • difficulty walking, shopping, or preparing food

As a result of their health habits, many seniors experience both muscle loss (sarcopenia) and increased body fat. This combination is dangerous in that it results in an overall weakening of the body. To compound the problem, age-related changes, many of which are gradual and unseen, occur in the body's cells, bones, tissues, and organs. These changes affect the whole body. However, through proper diet, nutrition, and exercise,  seniors can adopt patterns of activity (fitness of mind and body) that will increase their chances of remaining healthier as they age. Studies have shown that it is never too late to build strength, increase endurance, and enhance nutrition.

The first wealth is health.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.