Managing weight as we age is extremely important as it affects mobility, strength and overall wellbeing. Seniors and caregivers alike often find themselves struggling to control their weight. While it can be more difficult for some than others, proper nutrition and exercise can help maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent obesity related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Started in 1994, Healthy Weight Week falls on the third full week of January every year and was launched as an awareness campaign to help develop healthy nutrition and improve healthy habits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Obesity is a common, serious, and costly disease”. They also noted that between 2017-2018, 42.4% of Americans were obese which was an increase from 30.5% approximately twenty years prior. During that same time period, severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%. Managing your weight, or as a caregiver, helping to manage your loved one’s weight may seem daunting. With a few tips, dedication, and a clear understanding of the benefits, celebrating Healthy Weight Week can improve the quality of life for years to come.
Nutrition And It’s Role In Health
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”! Research has shown that the food we consume on a daily basis plays a major role in our health and wellness. Although many individuals may require a different level of effort and strategy, there is one lifestyle change that can be implemented immediately; healthy eating. Eating a balanced and nutritional diet is critical in helping to feel our best and reducing our risk of chronic diseases. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) has issued advice on what Americans should eat and drink to meet their daily nutritional needs. These guidelines are issued every five years with the newest version being released in 2020. For the first time, the 2020 edition focuses on nutrition and healthy living through all stages of life starting from infancy through older adulthood, those 60 and older.
Nutritional Guidelines for Caregivers and Older Americans
The goal of the Dietary Guidelines is to introduce nutrient-dense foods and drinks as the primary way to meet nutritional needs. Specifically, nutrient-dense foods that provide vitamins, minerals and other healthy components will help to keep and maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. Some of the crucial elements to a healthy diet mentioned in the guidelines are:
- Vegetables of all types - dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
- Fruits - especially whole fruit
- Grains - at least half of which are whole grain
- Dairy - including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives
- Protein foods - including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
- Oils - including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts
The DGA also recommends limiting food and beverages that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat mentioning that a healthy diet “doesn’t have much room for extra added sugars, saturated fat, or sodium—or for alcoholic beverages”. Their recommended limits are:
- Added sugars - Less than 10 percent of calories per day
- Saturated fat - Less than 10 percent of calories per day
- Sodium - Less than 2,300 milligrams per day
- Alcoholic beverages - 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women
Lifestyle And Dietary Intake
According to the newest guidelines, adults ages 40 to 59 have the highest rate of obesity (43%) of any age group with adults 60 years and older having a 41% rate of obesity.
Most caregivers and their loved ones fall in to these age groups, meaning, creating and maintaining healthy eating habits is crucial as we age. One factor that may impact older adults, especially caregivers is stress. Taking care of a loved one as they age can be challenging and may play a role in poor lifestyle choices and eating habits. While nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight is important to a long, healthy life, providing your loved one with a medical alert device from LifeFone can help relieve some of the stress related to caregiving. With the press of a button, your loved one can receive an immediate response, summoning emergency help when it’s needed the most!
Because older adults many times have special health concerns, they are typically at greater risk of developing chronic diseases. Following the Dietary Guidelines as stated below can help prevent weight gain and may even help individuals lose weight.
- Pay attention to calorie intake – Women over the age of 60 typically require between 1,600 and 2,200 calories per day while men in the same age range should stick to 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day.
- Nutrient rich food – Be sure to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy in your daily diet.
- Flavoring Food – Limit salts, sugars and fats by flavoring foods with fresh spices and herbs.
- Protein – Seafood, dairy, beans and other high protein food sources are recommended in a balanced daily diet.
- Supplements – Vitamins such a B12 can be an essential part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
- Hydration – Drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration while also maintaining a sense of “being full” will help curb bad appetite behavior.
Eating For A Healthy Lifestyle
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also offers some helpful tips for developing proper eating habits that can be used in conjunction with the DGA’s recommendations. They Include:
- Avoiding distractions while eating such as watching T.V. or using mobile devices.
- Slowing down while eating and taking time to enjoy the food that has been prepared.
- Monitoring nutrition labels, keeping a look out for saturated fats, sugars and salts.
- Planning ahead when traveling or dining out.
- Trying new foods, expanding your pallet and enjoying different dishes.
While eating nutritional foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for everyone is important, for those over the age of 60 or caregivers experiencing stress or lack of personal time there are other options to help keep your elderly loved one safe while at home or on the go. LifeFone’s newest medical alert device, the VIPx can help save lives when seconds count and offers an app that provides current location tracking, first motion of the day notifications, battery level warnings, step tracking and button press history. Rated the #1 Best Medical Alert System for 2021 as ranked by U.S. News & World Report’s 360 Reviews team, you can ensure both you and your loved ones are protected in the case of an emergency.