Nutrition For Seniors – Amy Lee, MD

As people age and change so do their nutritional
needs. Eating healthy is a key element in maintaining a good quality of life into your
senior years. We spoke with Dr. Amy Lee at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and
asked, what kind of nutrition is best for seniors? The nutrition that we should focus as we grow
older really comes down to increasing lean protein into our daily regimen: not only eating
all the protein in one sitting but really spreading out throughout the day for both
men and women. The one difference between men and women comes down to bone health. One
common test that we usually measure in private practice or even in any medical care is ordering
a dexa scan for females to really evaluate bone health. Whereas in men it’s less common
that they would develop osteoporosis but it is a condition. The food that we should avoid
or limit as we grow older really comes down to foods that tends to store or a capability
of being stored in our fat or adipose tissue. These things are carbohydrates refined carbohydrates
and also saturated fats; Which is usually found in animal products. Salt intake is very
important: there’s a lot of misconception in the community about geriatrics and salt
intake. Depending on what conditions you have such as high blood pressure or coronary artery
disease or congestive heart failure, these are really the main conditions where salt
intake becomes very important but the recommendation each day really comes down to about 2 grams
of salt a day. Should seniors be drinking 8 glasses of water a day? As we age it’s even
more important to drink the 8 glasses water which comes down to about 2 to 3 liters a
day. There are many different reasons on why elderly don’t drink enough water, number 1,
it’s hard to get to water, difficulty in access. Number 2, the medications that elderlys are
on, which could be for cardiovascular health, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, can
actually decreases our water in our body so it’s very important to be on top of that before
you become dehydrated. Number 3 we often times lose more water when we have comorbid conditions
or chronic diseases like auto immune diseases, high blood pressure and even cancers. Why
do seniors seem to eat less than when they were younger? Number 1 reason is decline in
cognitive behavior; in our sensory neurologically speaking. Our senses just become more dull
as we grow older. Things don’t taste the way it tastes compared to before and also medications
that we take often times have side effects and complications that causes us to have chronic
nausea when it comes to eating. So those are very common reasons. Number 3, our stomach
actually works slower as we grow older, so you feel full longer but the weight that you
lose from not eating it’s very different from someone who actually put themselves on a diet
plan and it’s dangerous in that sense because a lot of the elderly actually do suffer from
what we call protein malnutrition because they actually lose a lot of their muscle mass.
It’s also what we call sarcopenia, straight basically just losing muscle mass and not
fat mass. A lot of them also has accumulation of fat in the belly as well which contributes
to abdominal obesity or even a metobolic syndrome. Those individuals with the belly fat is also
in a very dangerous state because the fat in the belly actually secretes a whole different
gamut of hormones.