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As we age, diet becomes increasingly important

Cher Haack

We try to eat healthy, but sometimes we fail. It does not help that every time we turn around, there is a fast-food establishment just waiting to provide a quick, easy meal. As we age, we need to be even more concerned about the foods we put into our bodies. A balanced, healthy diet can contribute to a better quality of life and more independence as we age.

A healthy diet provides more than you might think. It can increase mental alertness, help fight illness and disease, and increase energy levels. A proper diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, bone loss, some types of cancer and anemia.

A few things you can do:

Certain nutrients are essential for the brain to do its job. Try eating more fish and nuts, which are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your focus and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Maintaining bone health as you age depends on your calcium intake to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Seniors need 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Whether you are getting it from a serving of milk, yogurt or cheese, always try and incorporate this into your diet.

Try whole grains instead of processed white flour for more nutrients and fiber. Seniors need 6-7 ounces of grains each day.

Try reducing your salt intake. This will help prevent water retention and high blood pressure. I know from experience caring for elders that this is easier said than done. As you get older, your taste and smell senses diminish. Seniors may lose their sensitivity to salty foods. This means you are more likely to salt your food more heavily. Try adding herbs and spices instead.

Seniors need to be aware of their daily water intake. As we age, our sense of thirst is dulled. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, urinary-tract infections and constipation, and even mental confusion. Drinking plenty of water should be part of your daily routine. Drink water with every meal, and have a few additional glasses throughout the day. I know many seniors worry that drinking more water will lead to more restroom visits. A couple of extra restroom visits is better than becoming constipated, dehydrated or confused.

It is better for seniors to have their biggest meal at lunch time. This will help keep them going for the remainder of the day. Keep it lighter and smaller at dinner time. Also, overeating before bed can lead to insomnia.

Try not to skip meals. This will slow down metabolism and make you feel sluggish and tired.

Sometimes seniors have other health concerns that can affect their eating habits. They include loss of appetite, which can be caused by medications, depression or a lack of variety and taste in the foods one eats.

To combat his, talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking. A different medication or dosage might be an option.

Feeling depressed is another good reason to see your doctor.

Try new foods, pull out those recipe books and find some interesting healthy choices, visit a farmers market or try a new restaurant. Healthy eating will help you to live a long and healthy life.

Cher Haack is the executive director of The Lodge Assisted Living Facility in Carson City.