Top Ten Nutrients for Healthy Ageing
September is Healthy Ageing Month, designed to draw attention to the positive aspects of growing older. 20% of the UK population are aged 65 or older. This is a perfect time to look at the key nutrients to help you maintain optimum health.
Due to advances in medicine people are living longer than ever before, but they’re not living with optimal health. 50% of over 65s have at least one long-term medical condition reaching two-thirds of the over 85s.
The Kings Fund carried out research in 2019 and whilst life expectancy is 80-85 years, “healthy life expectancy” (living in good health or without disability) is just 63 years! That’s a lot of years in sub-optimal health.
According to Age UK In England, more than 10% of over 65s take at least eight different prescribed medications weekly and this increases to 25% among the over 85s. These come with an increasing list of adverse side effects- often leading to the need for so many different drugs.
But it’s never too late to take back control of your health with a healthy body and a healthy mind.
1. Omеgа-3 Essential Fatty Acids, especially EPA/DHA.
These fats are always top of my list. They are called ‘essential” as the body cannot make them so they must come from the diet. The most reliable source is from oily fish (mackerel, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon). These fats have an anti-inflammatory action in the body, opposing the inflammatory action of Omega 6 and processed fats and excess sugars.
The brain is composed of 60% of these special fats – a deficiency has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s. They are essential for good cardiovascular health, help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and many other inflammatory conditions. To obtain sufficient intake you need to be eating three portions of these fish each week otherwise supplement 1000mg EPA/DHA daily.
2. Vitamin D3
In the past 18 months there have been several studies linking D3 deficiency to increased risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19. It is an essential nutrient for the immune system, for strong bones and for brain health. Older adults are more likely to be at risk of D3 deficiency as they spend far more time inside and covered up. The body produces D3 from exposure of the sun on bare skin ie without suntan lotion. In the UK we cannot obtain sufficient levels living in the Northern hemisphere especially throughout the Winter. Supplementation is essential: 1000iu every day 365 days of the year.
This mineral is a miracle in my mind. Yet it lives in the shadows of calcium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 body processes. It’s one of the first nutrients I think of when clients present with headaches, cramps, asthma, osteoporosis, depression, cardiovascular disease and low energy. It’s required for a healthy nervous system, to help form strong bones, for energy production throughout the body, for muscle contraction and relaxation.
And let’s not forget it is known as Nature’s Tranquilizer. It’s really helpful for anxiety, low mood and sleep.
It’s found in dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, nuts, seeds, whole grains like rice (not refined versions) and pulses.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, This fabulous golden spice has many valuable health properties but be careful how you choose to take it as it is poorly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. Your choice of a supplement must be made wisely. Choose one with a fat soluble formula which enhances absorption. And use liberally in cooking frying in olive or coconut oil.
With its well researched anti-inflammatory properties it can be very effective for arthritis, for inflammatory bowel conditions and many other inflammatory conditions too.
It can help memory and support the brain against ageing. It has been shown to help delay cellular ageing and may be protective against tumour formation too.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant helping to protect cells against damage and ageing. It helps wounds heal. There are many studies showing its effectiveness against viral infections and for recovery. It’s an important component in collagen production- not only helping to keep skin plump and delay wrinkles, but for strong bones, tendons and ligaments too.
Vitamin C rich foods are peppers, kiwi fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, berries and of course citrus fruits.
For men, sufficient zinc intake may help slow the progression of prostate disease.
For both men and women, zinc is another critical nutrient for the development and function of the immune system. It’s involved in over 300 enzyme processes from energy metabolism, nerve function to digestion.
Good sources are nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin), shellfish, red meats, legumes and eggs.
A deficiency can become more prevalent in vegans and those with poor digestion. It is found in animal foods, so vegans and vegetarians should supplement. It can take 5 years for a deficiency to become apparent, so do be sure you have a good intake and chew your food well to support your digestion!
B12 nourishes the brain and nervous system. It is required for red blood cell production and therefore helps prevent anaemia. It also plays a part in preventing macular degebeartion.
8. B Vitamins
B Vіtаmіnѕ should be taken as a complex as they work synergistically together. They рlау a сruсіаl rоlе in еnеrgу рrоduсtіоn, DNA rераіr, immune hеаlth аnd brаіn funсtіоn. They are important for mood and helping prevent dementia.
Also, B vitamins help lower a substance called homocysteine. High levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Good sources are legumes, meat, fish, eggs and dark green leafy vegetables and wholegrains like brown rice.
9. Co Q10
This is another important antioxidant and energy producer found in abundance in heart cells. In fact, it’s important for energy generation in all cells throughout the body.
But, did you know that Statins lower levels of Co-Q10?! I recommend supplementing CoQ10 for those on statins.
It is found in abundance in organ meats, oily fish and whole grains.
Not a nutrient as such but good fibre intake is essential throughout life and as we age. It supports healthy elimination of toxins helping to cleanse the body. It feeds the gut microbiome which we now know supports all aspects of our health- both body and mental health.
Low fibre intake is linked to bowel disease and cancer, which increases as we age.
Do make sure you eat a very diverse and colourful range of vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds and legumes aiming for ten a day. You’ll also be supporting your intake of all these nutrients above.
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