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Senior support

Support your health and wellbeing as you grow older with this great advice for older minds and bodies

“Ageing well is not just about what we eat and what we do - it’s very much a frame of mind,” says Jill Bell of health store Well and Good in Midleton, Co Cork. “It’s an ability to adjust positively to changes, for example the loss of a partner, decreased mobility, health issues and that bugbear, a dodgy memory. It’s about adding life to our years rather than just adding years to our lives. It’s never too late to start caring for our bodies.”

“Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting old,” says nutritional therapist Olive Curran who works at PPC in Galway. “That’s why it’s important to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle to encourage healthy ageing.”

Diet first

“Most people over 70 began life with relatively healthy diets compared with many younger people,” says Jill Bell. “Fewer salty and sugary snacks, more regular mealtimes and far less processed food. Stick with it! Older people need plenty of fresh vegetables, and enough protein (chicken, fish, red meat) to ensure muscle repair. Appetite and meals may decrease, and this is when eggs, nuts, nut butters and seeds can help to fill a gap.”

“As we age it would be advisable to stick to an alkaline diet rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods as much as possible,” says Elaine Joyce from health store Ylang Ylang in Westport, Co Mayo. Eat oily fish at least twice per week; consume plant foods rich in fats such as chia, pumpkin and linseed; use fresh ginger and turmeric liberally in your cooking for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Bones and joints

“Aching bones and joints are very common with older people due to wear and tear, and long-term dietary choices,” says Elaine Joyce. “It causes a lot of pain and lack of mobility and therefore hinders quality of life.”

“Omega-3 found in oily fish (sardines, fresh salmon, seabass, mackerel) linseeds, chia seeds and fresh nuts is the number one anti-inflammatory for aching joints,” says Jill Bell.

“A combination of ginger, curcumin (the active part of turmeric) and vitamin C can really help your bones and joints,” says Olive Curran. “Curcumin helps to control inflammatory responses in the body, protects joints and helps to maintain joint flexibility. Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation and the function of bones and cartilage.”

Help is also available from:

  • Boswellia, hyaluronic acid, curcumin, MSM, rosehip extract and New Zealand green-lipped mussel oil are natural anti-inflammatory supplements
  • Glucosamine is useful for maintaining joint health
  • Organic apple cider vinegar is a very effective alkalising anti-inflammatory remedy for aches and pains
  • Vitamin B12 keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture
  • Cut down on caffeine-containing drinks or sugary foods and drinks - they lead to tissue acidity and aggravate joint and muscle pain
  • Reduce the amount of sugars and starches in your diet and increase vegetables
  • Drink water - dehydration contributes to inflammation
  • Light exercise is very important - walking, yoga and swimming are all very good for flexibility

Diabetes prevention

“Type 2 diabetes is more common in older adults caused for the most part by inactivity, being overweight, poor diet, excess alcohol consumption and family history,” says Elaine Joyce. “It can be managed with an improved diet and exercise, along with supplements. It is also important to stay hydrated, increase exercise and control carbohydrate intake.”

Help is also available from:

  • Chromium - helps to balance blood sugar levels
  • Cinnamon - helps to prevent sugar cravings

Eyes on the prize

“Macular degeneration is an eye problem particularly related to ageing,” says Jill Bell. “Carotenoids can be a real help and are found in blueberries, tomatoes (cooked), carrots and other colourful fruit and vegetables as well as supplements. Early diagnosis is key.”

Help is also available from:

  • Vitamin A, a vital nutrient for eyes. In dairy products, fish oils and egg yolks
  • Bilberry contains antioxidant vitamins A and C that help to prevent damage to the eyes
  • Selenium - found in small amounts in brazil nuts, eggs, garlic, and brown rice, seafood and yeast or take a supplement.
  • Zeaxanthin and lutein from leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress help prevent oxidation around the eye

Happy heart

The main risk factors for heart disease and stroke are smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), 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, be more physically active; drink less alcohol; learn to relax and have a regular blood pressure and cholesterol check.

“Unless blood thinning medication has been prescribed, omega-3 fish oils and magnesium help dilate blood vessels and reduce pressure,” says Jill Bell. “Fish oils and magnesium can safely be sourced by including oily fish, chia seeds, leafy greens, nuts and seeds and wholegrains. Regular exercise plays an important role.”

“If your cholesterol is high, taking plant sterols daily should be your first step in lowering LDL 'bad’ cholesterol,” says Olive Curran. “Take a food supplement which provides plant sterols, proven to lower cholesterol.”

Help is also available from:

  • Cayenne pepper in a little hot water, first thing in the morning helps clear the arteries and regulates blood pressure
  • Garlic - cook with it, eat it raw or take a supplement to help arteries to stay clear
  • Hawthorn tea is a good tea to drink for the heart muscle
  • Sterols and stanols found in nuts and grains help control cholesterol levels
  • Plant sterols, red yeast rice, lecithin and citrus extracts are helpful for cholesterol. If you take statins or beta blockers, be sure to take CoQ10, which helps to reduce some of the adverse effects

Urinary issues

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can become more common, and a more frequent issue for women, as we age and cranberries play an important role in easing symptoms and frequency. Available dried, fresh or as pure organic juice, it is important that the juice contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Help is also available from:

  • Birch leaves and horsetail can help to strengthen the urinary system
  • Cantharis is very effective at easing the burning sensation when urinating
  • Goldenrod has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and antiseptic actions

Prostate problems

Prostate issues become a real problem for men in their 60s. Any man who is experiencing frequent or painful urination, blood in urine, inability to urinate, pain in their back, hips, thighs or pelvis should see a doctor straight away.

Eat foods rich in beta-sitosterol such as pecans, avocados, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, rice bran, wheat germ, soybean products and dandelion coffee. Also eat tomatoes and other vegetables rich in lycopene. Exercise and avoidance of long periods of sitting are important.

Help is also available from:

  • Remedies containing nettle root, zinc, lycopene, pumpkin seed and sea buckthorn
  • Saw palmetto is used to relieve the discomfort of an enlarged prostate

Osteoporosis alert

“People with a light bone structure are specially prone to osteopoenia and osteoporosis,” says Jill Bell. “Weight-bearing exercise is important - walking, climbing stairs, dancing and so on. Ensuring your diet contains sufficient calcium and magnesium from leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes and wholegrains is vital, as is getting sufficient vitamin D to aid absorption of calcium.”

“Osteoporosis is very common in older people, especially post menopausal women when oestrogen levels fall,” says Elaine Joyce. “Exercise helps to maintain a healthy bone mass.”

Help is also available from:

  • Calcium supplements when taken in conjunction with vitamins D3 and vitamin K2 - D3 helps calcium absorption and K2 puts calcium where it is needed
  • Vitamins D and K, magnesium, boron and zinc are all helpful supplements for osteoporosis

Tummy troubles

“Constipation is often an issue as older muscles tend to weaken,” says Jill Bell. “Drinking plenty of water is vital, adding fibre such as bran and linseeds to porridge for breakfast, using a good probiotic to support the gut and taking a magnesium supplement to promote muscle and bowel function can help.”

Indigestion and reflux are often caused by low stomach acid, rather than too much. If symptoms occur about an hour after eating, low stomach acid is probably the problem. Try sipping cider vinegar or lemon juice in water before meals containing protein. Digestive enzymes containing betaine hydrochloride (stomach acid) can help.

Cut down on tea and coffee as these deplete magnesium which is essential for regulating the movement of the bowel. Enough fibre is important, but fibre without sufficient water can make you worse. Try eating more oats and oatbran, prunes and figs.

Help is also available from:

  • 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
  • Magnesium for the relaxation of intestinal muscles
  • Psyllium husk can be used as a supplement and is particularly good mixed with probiotics and prebiotics
  • Yoghurt restores natural bacteria

Mind matters

“Mental stimulation resulting from active learning makes for a more interesting older person, whether this is learning a foreign language, picking up an old hobby, joining a book club or volunteering in a community group,” says Jill Bell. “Memory loss can be a feature of ageing,” says Elaine Joyce. “Rhodiola is a good choice to help boost learning and memory skills, along with essential fatty acids, vitamin D and curcumin.”

“Omega-3s have been found to improve numerous heart disease risk factors,” says Olive Curran. “Omega-3 DHA shields against age-related mental decline, improving both learning and memory in older adults.”

A health store staff member may suggest you consult your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or start a new diet

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