Over the last 200 years, the average life expectancy of people in the UK has doubled. Now, more than 16 percent of the population is over the age of 65. The proportion of people who are over the age of 85 has increased as well. Those extra years being added to our lifespan are nice to have if you can enjoy them as a healthy person, but not everyone that age is healthy, and this is having a detrimental impact on the overall quality of life.
As we get older, our bodies go through several physical changes which can impact our attitude towards food. These changes can sometimes make us find it harder to follow a healthy diet, and can make us feel less hungry, so we end up eating less. It is important to be proactive about nutrition as we get older, so that we can avoid cognitive decline, poor dental and oral health, and declining bone density as we get older. Here are a few of the most common myths about eating a healthy diet, and staying healthy as you get older.
Myth 1 – Malnutrition is a normal part of ageing
Malnutrition is something that can affect anyone, but older people are at greater risk. Don’t just ignore signs of malnutrition, they are not a normal part of ageing and you should treat it. If you use a care company, they can help with supporting the elderly with all aspects of meal times which include assisting with their weekly shop, and even helping with the preparation of their meals.
Older people must be vigilant to ensure that their diets stay healthy, and that they stay healthy too.
Myth 2 – Your stomach gets smaller with age
A lot of people think that as you get older your stomach will get smaller and that is why older people eat less. While your appetite and your ability to eat a lot of food may change, the size of your stomach does not reduce with age.
Myth 3 – Older people need to eat less
Another common misconception is that as our energy requirements fall we need to greatly reduce our food intake. This is a massive oversimplification. While your metabolism does slow slightly with age, the reduction is very small and we need to make sure that we are taking in quality food that will get us all of the nutrients that we need as we age.
Myth 4 – Losing weight is healthy
We are usually taught about weight loss from the perspective of health, but that is not something that is always true. Dieting and unintentional weight loss later in life can be damaging to your health. Talk to your doctor before going on a diet.
Myth 5 – Just eat when you are hungry
While skipping the odd meal will not do you any harm, if you find that you lose your appetite to a significant degree then you should talk to your doctor because that may be a symptom of a more serious underlying health issue.
Myth 6 – Fat is bad for you
Low fat diets are not automatically healthy, especially for older people. Some vitamins are fat soluble, and the body needs a certain amount of fats in order to produce hormones. Fat is also calorie-dense and therefore a good way for older adults that have lost their appetites to maintain their weight.
Myth 7 – Vegetables are the most important food
While vegetables are very important because they are rich in micronutrients, a healthy diet includes proteins, fluids and carbohydrates. Protein is vital as we get older because it protects your muscles, immune system, brain and body organs.
Myth 8 – You don’t have to drink water unless you are thirsty
By the time you are thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated. Try to get into the habit of drinking throughout the day.
Myth 9 – You can get by on meal supplements
Meal supplements and vitamins are useful for people who are struggling to get enough nutrition, but it is important to eat solid foods as well because not all vitamins are properly absorbed by the body when taken in supplement form. In addition some supplements can interact with medication.
Myth 10 – It’s important to eat three square meals a day
If you are struggling to eat three square meals a day then you may fare better eating several smaller meals, or even just eating one large meal per day. The important thing is that you get enough nutrition each day, not how the nutrients are spaced out.