Population ageing is one of humanity’s greatest success stories. But at the same time, it is also one of the greatest challenges to cope with in the existing policies.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away; a common notion that most people grow up with. We are told to eat a good amount of leafy green vegetables, drink plenty of water and so on. These methods do ensure a good nutritious diet and they usually work, mostly when we are kids until we reach the adult age.
However, for a senior citizen the food laws applied are slightly different. Seniors not only require a nutritious diet but also good amounts of adequate sources of minerals like calcium and vitamins rich food. Many a time seniors find themselves falling prey to a number of myths that surround their basic dietary and nutrition needs. Most of these myths are untrue, unhealthy and pose various health risks.
Dr. Sriniwas Thakur, Consultant Geriatrics, Fortis Hospital, Mulund dispels some of these myths.
Myth #1: Loss of appetite can be ignored
It is normal that appetite changes with age; metabolism slows down and caloric requirement decreases. Energy output also drops as compared to younger people. However, completely losing your appetite is not a good sign; it may very well indicate an underlying problem like poor dentition, difficulty swallowing, a thyroid gland related problem or other serious health conditions. Weighing oneself on a regular basis helps keep track of optimal weight count and monitors weight loss.
Myth #2: Seniors have slower metabolism and thus require fewer nutrients
While seniors require fewer calories, and their food volume is lesser than younger adults, they too require a healthy amount of nutrients. As we age, physical activity tends to decrease therefore our bodies ability to absorb nutrients also decrease. This entitles a senior to more nutrient consumption. It is recommended for a senior to increase their consumption of vitamins such as Vitamin D and B12 and calcium, through natural sources or supplements recommended by their physician.
Myth #3: Seniors who are not overweight can consume sugar, salt & fat in large amounts
People who appear thin but have good eating capacities and enjoy burgers, sweets and other fatty food items tend to be looked at as healthy; the underlying truth is that they too are at risk of developing Heart diseases, Diabetes due to improper sugar consumption, Cholesterol problems, Alzheimer’s disease and so on. Seniors who are on the slighter thinner frame should nevertheless adopt a well-balanced diet and healthy eating option to keep health risks at bay.
Myth #4: It is ok for a senior person to skip meals
Skipping a meal causes a person to overeat during the next meal. Blood sugar levels drop often causing dizziness. It is recommended that even if you are not hungry, eating small portions will suffice, especially for seniors. Those who eat 5-6 small meals will have reduced chest congestions, breathing problems and insulin levels will be moderate. Skipping meals will make the body crave food at odd hours which is unhealthy.
Myth #5: As long as you eat you’re healthy:
Elders living alone usually find it difficult and tiresome to cook meals; this makes them opt for readymade food options or tend to snack on packaged food. These types of food include high amounts of salts, added preservatives, sugar etc. which are not a healthy option, resulting in major health risks.
Myth #6: Artificial supplements are a must as we grow old:
It is a common misconception among people that as we grow old, we need to take multivitamin and calcium supplements. It may unnecessarily lead to problems like constipation, diarrhea and even malnutrition. Relying too heavily on artificial supplements for your nutrition is not good. It should be taken only if advised by your doctor, along with a balanced healthy diet.
Myth #7: It is ok to avoid food because of constipation or bloating:
A very harmful myth. It is not only the quantity, but also the quality of food that matters with our toilet habits. It is very important to consume foods that are rich in fibers, if one is having constipation or bloating, rather than take over the counter medications or decrease their food intake.
Ensuring that you watch what you eat will ensure your health being in a good condition too. And most importantly, it is better to seek the help of your doctor, if suffering from loss of appetite or weight loss or weight gain and get timely medical attention. As rightly said, ‘Prevention is better than cure’.