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In your prime

Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting sicker. Check out Rude Health’s diet, nutrition and lifestyle advice for seniors

Common issues

“The most common health issues our senior customers ask about are joints, bones and mobility, digestive problems, memory problems and often skin or eye problems,” says Dorothy Browne of health store Nice and Natural in Cootehill, Co Cavan.

“There are ailments that we’re more prone to in our ‘golden years’ and equally a host of supplements to counteract their negative effects,” says Gerald Colfer of health store Only Natural in Wexford town. “I’m talking about the likes of arthritis and joint problems, osteoporosis, cardiac impairment, vision-related issues and memory deterioration. While we see many seniors battle with these ailments all the time we also have customers who remain hale and hearty right into their advanced years. While some of these differences may be the result of genetic predisposition, the healthier aged are sometimes the ones who’ve taken care to eat an unrefined, natural diet, remain physically active and maintain a positive mental attitude and have fun. These are the attributes that should be embraced for a healthy old age before we think about supplements.”

Prevention is better than cure

“I recommend good fats, be they from fish or vegetarian sources like flax oil, they have multiple benefits for joints, heart, eyes and brain,” says Gerald Colfer. “They fight inflammation which is now thought to be the root cause of many more ailments than we previously knew. Turmeric, either in supplement or drink form, is one of nature’s great inflammation fighters.”

“Having a balanced diet of good carbohydrates like brown bread, rice, pasta and cereals, protein-rich foods like fish, beans and eggs, fruits and vegetables, foods rich in calcium such as milk, yogurt and cheese as well as leafy green veg and fortified cereals is even more important as we age,” says Dorothy Browne. “Keep active, eat well, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, drink lots of fluids, stay up to date with all medical appointments and take plenty of rest is also good advice.”

“Other great health boosters are probiotics because they support good digestion, better immunity and optimal brain health and mood,” says Gerald Colfer. “I recommend buying reputable brands and changing them frequently to ensure you’re getting as many different strains as possible. Ageing bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions. Choose a powder, preferably without a long list of ingredients, from the many sources available including pea, hemp, whey and pumpkin and use it in shakes and cooking. Taking a multivitamin is a good idea. I tend to favour powder which, as well as all the important nutrients, often contain a gamut of alkalising green foods too.”

With a cherry on top

Montmorency cherries are a sour variety and in juice form carry a number of health benefits. High antioxidant levels and antimicrobial properties make cherry juice a good all-rounder for the older body, with some other benefits too. Relief for sufferers of gout and osteoarthritis can mean less pain and stiffness and improved short-term memory too. Anthocyanins in cherries may benefit people who have glaucoma where a build-up of fluid pressure inside the eye can cause vision loss.

Joints & bones

“For joint health, omega-3, curcumin and ginger can reduce the pain and inflammation of stiff joints,” says Dorothy Browne. “Glucosamine chondroitin and MSM are important in the formation of collagen and vitamin D and help maintain healthy levels of calcium and magnesium, important minerals to support strong bones. Arnica gel helps reduce swelling and pain, which is great for sprains or strains and bruising.”

Also supporting joints and bones:

  • To prevent osteoporosis look for a calcium supplement taken in conjunction with vitamins D3 and K2 as vitamin D3 helps calcium absorption and K2 calcium to be deposited where it is needed.
  • Natural anti-inflammatory supplements that have clinically-supported benefits, such as boswellia, hyaluronic acid, curcumin, MSM, glucosamine, rosehip extract and New Zealand green-lipped mussel oil.
  • Magnesium and zinc – both vital for bone health
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – essential nutrients for bone health and strength. Sometimes fortified with vitamin D for bone health.
  • Vitamin B12 – keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture.
  • Ask your local health store for a bone-friendly supplement.

Tummy troubles

“For digestive problems, we always recommend a good probiotic, prune juice, extra fibre such as psyllium husks and for indigestion some digestive enzymes, aloe vera juice and apple cider vinegar,” says Dorothy Browne.

Also supporting your tummy:

  • Digestive enzymes – help the body to break down food and absorb more vitamins and minerals from food.
  • Garlic – for a cleansing and antibacterial action on the gut.
  • Yogurt – restores natural bacteria.
  • Magnesium – for the relaxation of intestinal muscles.
  • Centaurium bitter herb for acid reflux – available in tincture form.
  • Camomile tea – drink after a meal for heartburn and acid reflux.

Heart health

According to the Irish Heart Foundation the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke are smoking, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, physical Inactivity, overweight and obesity. We should all: eat more fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods; eat less fatty foods; eat oily fish twice a week; if you smoke, try to stop; be a healthy weight, watch the portion sizes; be more physically active, at least 30 minutes five days a week; say ‘when’ sooner, drink less alcohol; learn to relax and have a regular blood pressure and cholesterol check.

Also supporting the heart:

  • Fish oils – if you don’t eat much fish, take a supplement of fish oil with omega 3 to cut down on unhealthy fats called triglycerides.
  • Garlic – cook with it, eat it raw or take a supplement to help arteries to stay clear.
  • Sterols and stanols – found in nuts and grains, these compounds help control cholesterol levels. Also available as supplements.
  • CoQ10 – may be of benefit to heart health. Ask in your local health store.

Feeling blue?

Eat some blueberries! These little vitamin-packed wonders have some great benefits. They are associated with fewer wrinkles, heightened memory and decreased risk of contracting diseases. A native North American fruit, blueberries can be eaten fresh, frozen, tinned, or as an extract.

Eyes have it

“For eye health, taking a blueberry supplement rich in lutein may help to keep the muscles of the eyes strong,” says Dorothy Browne. “Zinc and vitamin C are also beneficial. Eye drops containing euphrasia can help with dry, irritated and tired eyes. Plenty of sleep is also recommended and keeping regular appointments with your optician.”

Also supporting eyes:

  • Carrots – a rich source of beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A.
  • Bilberry – contains antioxidant vitamins A and C that help to prevent damage to the eyes. Available as tablets, sometimes with lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Flaxseed oil – good if you have dry or itchy eyes. Available as capsules and a liquid.
  • Omega-3 fish oil – good for general eye health and clear eyesight.
  • Selenium – benefits the eyes. In small amounts in brazil nuts, eggs, garlic, and brown rice, seafood and yeast or take a supplement.
  • Vitamin A – a vital nutrient for eyes. In dairy products, fish oils and egg yolks.
  • Zeaxanthin and lutein – from leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress.

Check with your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or start a new diet.

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