Senior Health: Nutrition & Chronic Conditions

Nutrition is an important component of senior health and wellness. For a free, fresh selection of produce and other non-perishable groceries, visit Calumet Township’s 55+ Choice Market. For a full list of Calumet Township Cares services, click here.

Below is a list of common chronic conditions that affect us as we age, and how what we eat can improve or worsen those conditions:

Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use or make enough insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar in the body. People with diabetes must carefully plan the amount and type of foods they eat and the timing of meals and snacks to avoid high levels of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar levels can lead to other problems, including nerve damage, eye damage, kidney failure, heart disease, and problems with blood flow. Often, with some types of diabetes, people also must control their cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

Heart Disease

Heart disease causes the body to burn more calories than normal, resulting in weight loss. Many people with heart disease who are in treatment find it difficult to eat enough food to meet their needs. Their bodies may burn muscle and fat for energy. When people with heart disease lose weight and have poor nutrition, their bodies cannot handle their treatment as well.

High Blood Pressure

For people with high blood pressure, it’s important to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less salt and fat. Medications and diet restrictions can cause nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems. These conditions can sometimes make it difficult to eat enough food to meet nutritional needs.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a decrease in bone density due to age or illness, increases the risk that a bone will break. Taking more calcium to strengthen the bones can lessen this risk. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium, while minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium work together with calcium to improve bone strength.

Sarcopenia

The medical name for loss of muscle as you get older is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can make elderly people lose strength and the ability to get around, which increases their risk of falling. Older people with sarcopenia may need others to help them with everyday activities, such as standing up or opening a door. Physical activity is needed to help rebuild and maintain muscle. Getting the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals is also important to help people with sarcopenia stay strong.