An effective diet for the elderly

Those now entering old age are likely to experience 2050, when the proportion of people over 65 in the world is expected to double. As the quality of aging largely depends on the quality of the health care system, this is a great additional challenge for them and for society. At the same time, the great exhaustion of the health system in the circumstances of the covida-19 epidemic means an additional complication for everyone, and most of all for the individual.

Maintaining health in old age

Maintaining health in old age requires considerable life effort of the individual, which is why it is so important that society has established mechanisms and environments that support it in taking health into its own hands. However, as values ​​sink in every crisis they continue to erupt into a “black force”, aging will be much harder in the coming years than before.

It is true that we are otherwise recording a general improvement in living conditions, which in history has not really allowed for old age. By improving the material conditions for survival, the achievements of science and, above all, the progress of modern science with an emphasis on medical science, life and survival are easier and more successful.

Therefore, each individual can be a blacksmith of their own health in old age with minimal investment in a (all) adapted lifestyle to support health. This minimal investment in a healthy lifestyle also helps maintain muscle mass that can be used today to assess the nutritional status of the elderly and maintain functional and cognitive performance.

All this allows the maintenance of metabolic health (for example, less obesity), the capacity of the cardiovascular and immune systems, and reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases. The emphasis on maintaining psychophysical functioning is also the basis for the definition of “healthy aging” proposed by the World Health Organization: “the process of developing and maintaining functional abilities that enable well-being in old age.”

The role of physical activity

Among the key strategies that help maintain metabolic health and functional capacity, quality aging includes regular physical exercise in conjunction with adequate nutritional support. The concept of regular physical exercise in this context illustrates, above all, that the individual has a lifestyle that allows the maintenance and strengthening of muscle mass and body systems, which are the basis for maintaining physical performance. Of course, we will not send a farmer or other manual workers to the gym if they are already “working on muscle mass” every day.

We cannot stop the motor activities of aging, but we can effectively resist them and thus maintain the efficient functioning of body cells and be biologically younger than less healthy peers. The basis for this are less pronounced effects of aging on the body, which is reflected in better health and better quality age. The effects of physical activity are highly dependent on diet, which allows for metabolic adjustments to the effects of exercise.

This must always be based on an organized basic diet, which is adapted to the needs of the individual according to the type, amount and intensity of exercise. Dietary supplements play a very small role in this and cannot replace the effects of a normal diet. I have already written a lot about this on these pages, so this time we will move to the crisis focus and ask ourselves what we can do for muscles when we are old and the consequences of losing muscle mass are already affecting our health and quality of life.

How can we influence the effects of muscle training in old age

If you look for the answer to this question on the “online university”, it will be an expensive investment of time. In just over half a second, your uncle Google serves you at least 163,000,000 hits, a large part of which also belongs to the field of the dietary supplement industry and food gurus. Since most of you are not qualified to judge the online offer professionally, the likelihood of falling into the trap of marketing miracle exercises and products is very high. Therefore, it will not be superfluous to look at some expert advice based on scientific research in recent years.

No serious problem can be solved overnight

In old age, most people somehow realize that problems in life cannot be solved overnight. Our muscle mass in old age reflects everything we have done with ourselves and is assessed by lifestyle factors. If we have neglected our muscles nutritionally and physically for most of our lives, in old age we can only decide what we have or what we have left.

Therefore, the starting point for physical measures and a diet adapted to them is first an assessment of the nutritional status, which is also related to the assessment of the amount of muscles and their function. In this way, we also obtain data on metabolic status and functional capacity, which enables the planning of physical exercise and appropriate dietary strategies. Because it’s all reminiscent of a battle, we can use some military rules to effectively deal with muscle mass in old age. So to sum it up like this: “When generals plan battles, they first assess the situation on the front.”

Combat strategy planning

Once we determine the nutritional, metabolic and functional state of the elderly, we start planning exercise and diet. To translate the effects of exercise into improving muscle mass and function, exercise should last at least 12 weeks, that is, about three months. As the elderly person tries to repair or gain muscle, strength training or resistance training is at the forefront. Additional exercise strategies mastered by exercise professionals (such as kinesiologists) can further enhance the effect.

It is important that it is individually planned, ie adapted to the individual elderly person and especially to his metabolic condition. We also adjust the frequency and intensity of the exercise load to this. It is very important that the exercise is regular, which sometimes requires almost military discipline.

With the right nutrition strategy, we can improve its effects. Research shows that proper basic nutrition and its adaptation to the metabolic needs of exercise are significantly more important than we think. However, the effect of dietary supplements is significantly smaller than we usually imagine. In translation: “If we want to strengthen muscles, the diet must provide enough energy for all the necessary processes and at the same time increase the daily intake of protein with normal food.”

How to adjust the general rules of eating

Unfortunately, in this case, it is often necessary to forget what the rules for a “healthy diet” say, as understood by the average individual. The problem is even greater because the general rules are very difficult to pass on to the diet of the elderly, as they are a metabolically very heterogeneous population group. Therefore, the general rules of nutrition always emphasize that they should be adapted to the individual.

As previously written in the Strategic Plan, it is important to be aware that older people need more protein than healthy adults, depending on their nutritional needs, even if they are perfectly healthy. Chronic patients need even more. Therefore, quite often in the nutritional treatment of an elderly person who regularly exercises his muscles, we come across protein intakes that are in the rank of a top athlete. The next problem is proper planning of meals and protein intake according to the exercise system.

Protein intake should be distributed between all main meals, about 25 (or more) g per meal, taking into account the amount of muscle mass of the elderly and the quality of the protein source. Protein intake should be added around the workout itself. In recent years, they have also been researching the effects of individual amino acids (such as leucine) or their derivatives (such as beta-HMB) and vitamin D on the effects of muscle training. The results are still unconvincing, it seems to work better in those who have greater loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia).

Intake of other nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats is less problematic. Problems usually occur when meals are irregular and of poor quality or the elderly embark on various diets.
What can an elderly person do on his own

First and foremost, make sure he is physically active on a regular basis and that he also exercises his muscles. The diet should be regular, diet and uncritical use of dietary supplements usually worsen the nutritional status.

However, when an elderly person has health problems and / or a severe decline in muscle mass, it is high time for qualified nutritional and exercise treatment. Every Minister of Health should be aware that this is one of the key health measures for a healthy age, which should be accessible to the elderly at the primary level of health care. Given that the elderly will account for the largest share of the population in need of health care, clinical nutrition measures, in conjunction with physical activity, are key health measures.

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