Health Challenges in Older Adults: What Are They?
Getting older can bring on certain health problems as our body changes. Sometimes, these changes may create challenges that make it difficult for us, or our loved ones, to enjoy the lifestyle we previously had.
While health difficulties in our later years are far from uncommon, that doesn’t mean we have to live with them.
Learning what some of these challenges are and how to manage them can help. Here are a few of the common health concerns in older adults.
As we age, our appetite tends to naturally decrease. This may be for a few reasons, such as difficulty chewing or swallowing, dental problems, loss of taste, difficulty preparing meals or having a lack of routine.
We also tend to use less energy day-to-day as we get older, because we don’t exercise as regularly and aren’t as active as we used to be. Post-retirement, it can be easy to fall into less active routines and slow down.
While it is a common part of ageing, a reduced appetite can lead to a number of health complications, such as a reduced nutrient intake, increased risk of weight loss and nutritional deficiencies — which is the leading cause of malnutrition. As we get older, we still need to make sure we get enough of the nutrients our bodies need from the food we eat, even if our appetite decreases.
If you find you have a decreased appetite, choose small, frequent meals supplemented with nutrient-dense snacks (such as wholegrain toast with cheese or peanut butter, healthy soups, or nuts and seeds).
Some foods are naturally higher in nutritional value than others, so make your meals nutrient-dense by adding ingredients such as minced meat, oily fish, shellfish, tofu, eggs, potato and legumes to dishes.
You may also want to take nutritional supplements to make sure that your body is getting everything it needs to function properly and stay healthy.
Nutritional supplements such as SUSTAGEN Optimum contain a carefully chosen combination of vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, probiotics and antioxidants that can support healthy ageing. Probiotics and fibre can help digestive health, antioxidants Vitamins C and E support immune function and high-quality protein helps maintain muscle mass.
We all feel tired every now and then. But when you’re young, a good night's sleep is often enough to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to face a new day.
As we age, we can sometimes continue to feel tired for weeks in a manner that has a significant effect on daily life. This is known as fatigue.
If you find that you feel consistently tired for up to a week or over, this may be a symptom of fatigue and you may want to see your doctor. They will help diagnose the cause of your fatigue and suggest lifestyle changes or other measures that could help manage fatigue.
Lifestyle changes such as following a balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, and keeping to a consistent sleep schedule can all help to ease the symptoms of fatigue.
Foods rich in iron or protein can help to increase your energy levels and help you to feel less tired. This includes lean red meat, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, legumes, whole grains, eggs and nuts.
SUSTAGEN Hospital Formula may also be beneficial for those with fatigue. This is because it is high in B group vitamins, magnesium and iron — all of which support energy function and help reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
Find out more about fatigue, symptoms and management in our guide on how to deal with fatigue.
Sarcopenia (muscle loss)
Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is a natural part of ageing. However, it can be distressing and have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life.
Beyond the age of 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% of your muscle per decade. Sarcopenia typically speeds up around the age of 75, though it may start to increase as early as 65.
A diminished muscle mass means greater weakness and lessened mobility, both of which can also increase the risk of falls and fractures.
This is why it is important to make sure we eat enough protein as we get older — protein helps with muscle growth and maintaining muscle mass.
Sources of protein include:
- Lean red meat
- Oily fish such as salmon
- Low-fat dairy products (like milk and cheese)
- Soy products (like soy milk and tofu)
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas and beans)
- Nuts and seeds
Adding these protein-rich foods to your diet can help support muscle health in later years.
Adults over the age of 65 who have multiple risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, lack of exercise and poor diet are at greater risk of developing heart disease. This includes problems with the heart, blood vessels or both.
The good news is that there are a number of lifestyle choices you can make that may help to reduce your risk of heart disease.
What you eat can help to keep your cholesterol levels under control, which can improve your heart health. A diet high in saturated fat (bad fat) and low fibre levels may lead to high cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease and other health problems.
Reducing your intake of foods high in saturated fats can help reduce your risk of high cholesterol levels and heart disease. This includes foods like fatty cuts of meat, fried food, processed goods, full-fat dairy products, butter and cream.
Instead, aiming for a healthy diet that incorporates soluble fibre can also help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Choose fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables.
Avoiding other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol and a lack of activity can also decrease the likelihood of major health difficulties such as heart disease.
As we age, we can face a number of sleep-related issues. Ageing can affect our sleep-wake pattern, making us sleepier earlier in the evenings, unable to recover from a lack of sleep and unable to sleep into the late morning.
Too little sleep — or poor quality sleep — can stop you from feeling energised and motivated during the day.
Making small changes to your sleeping environment and bedtime habits can help:
- Keep your bedroom cool with air conditioning or a fan
- Stick to a regular bedtime schedule — try to go to bed at the same time each night and set your alarm at the same time in the morning
- Drink non-caffeinated herbal tea rather than coffee in the evening
Regular exercise during the day is also linked to improved sleep quality and may help you to fall asleep quickly. 30 minutes of exercise, such as a walk or swimming, could help you to sleep better at night as well as boost your energy levels and alertness during the daytime.
For more tips on improving sleep, visit our guide on how to stop feeling tired.
As we age, health difficulties can become more common. They may also become more serious — and in some cases, be life or lifestyle-threatening.
Being aware of these conditions and how susceptible you are to them is very important, as is making lifestyle and dietary changes that may benefit your health in the long term.
Nutritional supplements may be a good way to support your health as you age. Including nutritional supplements such as SUSTAGEN Hospital Formula in your diet can help you achieve your recommended daily intake of nutrients and vitamins.
SUSTAGEN Hospital Formula is a formulated meal replacement and cannot be used as a total diet replacement. Consume as part of a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
SUSTAGEN OPTIMUM™ is a Food for Special Medical Purpose, specially formulated for medical conditions where nutritional needs cannot be met through diet modification alone. Must be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional.