What role does diet and exercise play in senior health?

A good and healthy diet has numerous potential benefits in the health of seniors.

Heart disease, vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, memory problems, osteoporosis, certain cancers, skin, hair and nail diseases and visual problems are examples of conditions which can be impacted by diet.

Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water are all essential nutrients that make up most cells and tissues in the human body. These essential components need to be provided in moderation through the diet for maintenance of good health.

A balanced diet consisting of protein, fats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fibre is generally recommended. Although the quality of food is important, its quantity should not be overlooked. A large portion of a very healthy diet can still lead to a high caloric intake. Moderate portion sizes to achieve daily caloric goals of 1500 to 2000 are generally advised.

Avoiding empty calories is also important such as sugary and processed foods which contain little nutrition. These are foods which lack good nutritional value, are always high in processed fats, corn oils and palm oils and are high in calories. Examples include fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits, cakes, doughnuts and alcohol.

Special dietary restrictions for certain conditions are also important to follow. Restricted salt and fluid intake for people with heart failure or kidney disease, or carbohydrate controlled diet for people with diabetes are general examples of such guidelines.

Regular exercise 3-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes is strongly advised for seniors. An effective exercise is one which would increase the heart rate adequately to about 75% of maximum heart rate. A person's maximum heart rate is roughly calculated by subtracting age from the number 220.

Walking, swimming and exercise machines are generally safe and can help achieve these goals. Balance exercises, flexibility exercises and resistance exercises can also be beneficial.

As a general precaution, if symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath or dizziness occur during or after exercising, it is important for the individual to stop the exercise and notify their physician promptly. (Refs Medicinenet)

Mel Lay is an Accredited Cambridge Weight Plan Consultant and is qualified to help people with serious medical conditions to lose weight safely.