According to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) life expectancy in the UK has doubled over the last 200 years and approximately 16% of the population is aged over 65 years. As you get older, it’s even more important to stay active if you want to stay healthy and maintain your independence later in life, according to the NHS.
Age UK mentions a few age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints), coronary heart disease and diabetes that could be prevented through healthy habits and activities, including eating the right things. Even if you are starting to age and realise you haven’t spent a lot of your time eating healthily, it’s never too late to start. Eating well is likely to make you feel healthier, stay active for longer and can protect you against illnesses.
The NHS recommends a daily diet that includes at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and Cancer Research UK advises that this reduces the risk of several types of cancer and it also prevents the development of heart disease. Stop Colon Cancer Now recommends that you ‘eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables’ which refers to choosing fruits and vegetables with a wide array of colours, where each colour corresponds to different nutrients and thus having a better chance of covering the nutrients your body needs.
In a review of the health benefits of fish, The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition concluded that a large body of evidence suggests that fish consumption, particularly oily fish (such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines), reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The British Heart Foundation recommends at least two portions of fish per week. The BNF have also advised elderly people to take supplements containing 10mg of vitamin D daily and to regularly eat food with vitamin D (such as oily fish and fortified breakfast cereals). This is because of the skin’s reduced ability to synthesise vitamin D as we age.
Energy requirements decrease as age increases; this happens because of muscle tissue loss and a rise in fatty tissue, as many people tend to become less active with age. Although the energy requirements may decrease, physical activity and exercise can help you stay healthy, energetic and independent.
According to Age UK, staying active can help you manage high blood pressure and angina (chest pain from restricted blood supply to muscles of the heart), maintain regular bowel movements, stimulate a poor appetite, keep a healthy weight, ease discomfort from arthritis or Parkinson’s and strengthen muscles and bones, reducing the risk of falls and fractures. The NHS recommends aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, which can be done by engaging in 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exercises such as walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, and gardening.
WHO explains that older people are more likely to experience events such as bereavement, disability or a drop in socioeconomic status with retirement, which can result in loss of independence, loneliness, psychological distress and isolation. According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 and over, yet the British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that 85% of older people with depression receive no help from the NHS.
The NHS advises you to keep moving and stay active if you want to stay pain-free and reduce your risk of mental illness. It is equally important that you feel good mentally as well as being physically fit to contribute to your overall health. Age UK recommends keeping social contact with others, meeting friends, carrying out hobbies and involving yourself in the local community.
Age UK recommends 10 tips for ageing better: no smoking, looking after your teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing daily, watching what you eat and drink, staying active, making the most of your GP and getting routine tests done, boosting your vitamin D intake, taking care of your feet, sorting out a good sleep routine, taking eyesight and hearing tests, staying in touch and spending time with other people to prevent loneliness.
The older you get, the more changes you are likely to experience such as children moving away, the loss of parents, changes to or the end of your career and declining health. It is important to learn how to cope with these changes and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Healthguide.org has offered some tips for coping with change:
accept the things you can’t change;
focus on things you’re grateful for;
acknowledge and express your feelings; and
take action to deal with life’s challenges.
With the population now ageing faster than ever, it’s important that we understand how to keep physically and mentally healthy as we get older.