The Dietitian Is In—A Prescription to Aging Gracefully
YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad
Mrs. Molly Darden, an Atlanta, Georgia native, exchanged a sedentary lifestyle for water skiing at age 70. “After several water skiing lessons, I began to believe I could do it and found it challenging and satisfying to recapture the vigor and discipline of my earlier years,” says Darden, 71, a grandmother. “On a lovely August day not only did I get up on one ski, I took my first barefooting lesson (water skiing barefoot)! Woo hoo! I found that my best self is still in this old body. I stay active by jet skiing, doing aerobics and total fitness training.” Osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer are all common enemies during the golden years. Loneliness has been proven to exacerbate issues. You may think these conditions are inevitable but, as Mrs. Darden show us, healthy aging is possible.
As most fresh foods, including vegetables, grains and fruits contain sodium naturally, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting salt in meals, especially for people with high blood pressure. Osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle and more likely to break, is as much of an interest as heart health amongst women. A serving of a low fat dairy product such as milk, cheese and yogurt is recommended with every meal for a dose of calcium and vitamin D. A bone mineral density test (BMD) can determine how much calcium and other minerals are in various areas of one’s bones. The results will help doctors predict the risk of bone fractures. Regular exercise, including walking, also strengthens bones.
How many calories you need depends on how many you burn each day. However, calorie counting alone will not result in healthy choices. Foods may contain similar amounts of calories, but differ in nutrients. For example, milk provides more calcium than bananas. If it is calcium you need, choose milk and other low fat dairy products as meals. When it comes to proteins, peanut butter has more protein than cereal. So if you need protein, choose peanut butter, poultry or seafood.
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Constipation is common among aging seniors. The antidote is getting adequate water, fiber and physical activity. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. While fiber from actual food is better, dietary fiber supplements from manufacturers such as IFANCA halal certified Nutrilite®, Abbott Nutrition® and USANA® are a great alternative. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Any one of these options daily will suffice:
Drinking plenty of water tackles dehydration and moves fiber through the intestines, but water can also lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The National Institute of Medicine recommends about nine cups for women and 13 cups for men daily, depending on health. Watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, broccoli, lettuce, oranges and tomatoes are also sources of water as are milk, yogurt and fruit juices.
The senior years often mean having an over active bladder. If you are going to be out and about, get your fluids at home and not too close to the time you need to hit the road. Heading to some place new? Make it a point to scope out restrooms as soon as you arrive. “I restrict fluids when I go out and take a urinal, towel and hand sanitizer with me in case I cannot make it to the bathroom in time,” says Mr. Mukhtar Abdullah, 60 from Washington, DC. There are medications for incontinence too. Ask your doctor.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein — easy on the pocket and on the environment too, given the gallons of water and feed required to produce every ounce of meat. They are also a low sodium food. According to Dr. Mitch Canter at the Egg Nutrition Center in Park Ridge, IL, “A Harvard School of Public Health study found no relationship between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease in a population of over 117,000 nurses and health professionals followed for eight to fourteen years.” The study found no difference in heart disease relative risk whether study participants ate less than one egg a week or more than one egg a day.
“During the aging process muscle mass is lost and we become less effective at preserving and building muscle tissue,” says Marcia D. Greenblum, MS, RD, Senior Director, Nutrition Education, Egg Nutrition Center. “The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is set at the level for preventing deficiency rather than for optimal health. I think this becomes extremely important for seniors, who in the past were told to avoid high fat foods and in doing so turned away from some of the most valuable protein sources like eggs. Eggs provide a complete nutrient package that can contribute to health throughout the lifecycle.”
Christine Steele, Ph.D., Director of Science, Innovation and Education at Abbott Nutrition suggests whey protein. “Nutrition is critical for older adults to support healthy muscle, organs and immune function to help defend against age-related conditions and illnesses. Yet, many adults don’t eat an adequate diet and consume all the essential nutrients and protein needed,” says Steele. “Whey protein is a high-quality, easily digestible protein that can help adults maintain or rebuild muscle.” (see related article: Whey to Go) A majority of Abbott Nutrition products are IFANCA halal certified and carry its Crescent-M halal certification symbol.
Greek yogurt, a great source of protein, has been flying off grocery shelves but given its high fat content it is better to choose low-fat, low-sugar and fat-free versions. If it is sweetened with sugar or any other sweetening agent, it is not doing you any favors. If you have meager milk allergies, its high levels of casein may not suit you.
According to a six year Health and Retirement Study published in June 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “loneliness in older people can predict declines in health and an increased risk of death”. While those who lived alone were at greater risk, participants in this study included those with sizable social networks and those who were married or living with others but who still self-identified as lonely. According to the Quran, “Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest.” (13:28) The best solution for loneliness, of course, is time spent strengthening one’s relationship with God, establishing regular prayer, reading the Quran and serving His people — the needy, the wayfarer, the orphan. While discussing issues with others opens the door to getting help that you may not know is available, the Quran also emphasizes being “…firm or patient in pain or suffering, and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God fearing.” (2:177). The Prophets, peace be upon them, are our role models. As Prophet Jacob said, “I only complain of my grief and sorrow to God, and I know from God that which you know not.” (12:86). God, after all, promises “…verily, with hardship, there is ease.” (94:5). We have to view trials and tribulations as opportunities to earn His blessings. Finally, being grateful to God is important. God has pledged that “…if you are grateful, I will add more favors unto you.” (14:7).
Companionship with likeminded individuals, or those in the same boat as oneself, are other ways to lift the shroud of loneliness. Featured as a ‘Remarkable Woman’ by Chicago Tribune newspaper in September 2012, founder Dr. Talat Khan is the inspiration behind American Association of Retired Asians (www.retiredasians.org; AARA). The organization focuses on the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the underserved South Asian senior population, offering “Tea & Talk”, “Stress Management”, speakers and luncheons at its Carol Stream, IL based center. In partnership with the DuPage Senior Citizen Council, it hosts a “Thursday Lunch for Seniors”, from noon to three p.m. at the Shahi Nihari in Lombard, IL. The restaurant is transformed into a hub for as many as ninety seniors, who connect over nutritionally balanced Pakistani-Indian healthy food options, including halal and vegetarian choices, and of course, the entertainment. This markedly social afternoon is for the taking for the princely sum of $3 if you’re 60 years old or older. Younger seniors pay $7 per meal.
“What better health seems to be connected to is meaningful social support. How you feel through your golden years is a combination of spiritual wellness, healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits, including the relationships you nurture,” says Dr. Talat Khan.
“It’s hard to chew without my dentures.” “Food doesn’t taste like it used to.” “It’s hard to get out shopping.” “I don’t feel like cooking.” “I’m not hungry.”
These are not uncommon complaints amongst seniors. As the body ages, the senses of taste and smell may change. Medications, too, can alter the taste of foods or effect appetite. Let your doctor know if your medications ruin your appetite or sense of taste. It may also become harder to chew so choose softer foods including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, low fat cheese sandwiches, yogurt, cottage cheese and fruit. “I realize that I still have to eat, so I take supplements like (IFANCA halal certified) Ensure® to make sure I get adequate calories if I don’t eat as much at a meal,” says Abdullah.
Don’t feel like cooking? Ask your local convenience store to stock IFANCA halal certified J&M Food Products (www.halalcertified.com) that has a range of fully cooked, single serve meals that require no refrigeration and are available, in bulk, as vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Free from MSG, Soy and artificial flavors, these dishes are as varied as Cheese Tortellini, Chicken Mediterranean and Beef Stew. IFANCA halal certified Saffron Road® also offers ready-to-eat frozen, microwave dinners and sauces made from ingredients that are hormone and antibiotic free. “Or plan meals that don’t require cooking,” says Mr. Abdullah. “I have simple meals like smoothies to get my fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, I purchase pre-prepped food like salads and sandwiches such as a low-fat grilled cheese sand-
Many aging seniors and retirees live on fixed incomes. “The USDA’s SNAP program helps me cover all of my monthly food purchases, including fresh produce and even halal foods at my local halal grocery store,” says Rahil Muhammad Ibraheem, 71. Meals-on-Wheels is another option for low income seniors. Its stringent nutrition guidelines ensure that seniors receive necessary calories and nutrients. In fact, in Wayne County, Michigan, seniors can order halal Meals-on-Wheels too.
Other ways to cut costs:
As we age, we are less able to fight off infections. Be sure to fully cook eggs, seafood, and poultry. Food borne illnesses may spread via raw sprouts, some deli meats, and unpasteurized foods (foods not heated to destroy disease-causing organisms).
About the Writer: YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad MS, RD, LD is a Clinical Resource Manager and Registered Dietitian based in Atlanta, Georgia. Mrs. Muhammad is also certified in Adult Weight Management by the American Dietetic Association.