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Aging Parents

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Essential Nutrients
for Baby Boomers

It is important to ensure we are getting all the nutrients necessary for optimal health and wellness, especially as the years advance.  Some of the common concerns of Baby Boomers include maintaining strong bones, an agile mind, a strong immune system and good nerve function throughout the body.           

Various vitamins and minerals can help to support these goals. Vitamins C and D helps to strengthen the immune system, protecting against colds and flu. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants, which help to protect against a variety of serious diseases and disorders, including heart disease and cancer. 

Another nutrient - Astaxanthin - is one of the most powerful antioxidants available.  It's not a vitamin though.  Astaxanthin is the natural carotenoid that gives salmon its pink color.  It is a free-radical scavenger that can help protect your skin, joints, muscles, brain and nervous system.

B-complex vitamins are important to support nerve system function. B-vitamin deficiencies can lead to memory problems and other neurological disorders.

Calcium and vitamin D are important for strong, healthy bones. In combination with regular weight-bearing exercise, these vitamins and minerals can help prevent or minimize decreased bone mass. 

For optimal health and nutrition, choose healthy, whole foods (organic as much as possible) and make sure you are getting the nutrients you need.                              

The average age of Americans has been increasing each year.  There were approximately 77 million live births between the years of 1946 and 1964 in the United States - the generation referred to as the "baby boomers". In 2012, the oldest baby boomers will turn 66, with an average lifespan of 83. Many will live well into their 90s.1 Typically, people continue the habits throughout their lives that they developed in their youth. Unfotunately, for the majority of Americans, this includes a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, and a lack of regular exercise.

As we age, our bad habits seem to catch up with us.  The sugar, simple carbohydrates and fast foods we regularly indulged in as teenagers and young adults now seem to add additional pounds with each passing year. The lack of regular exercise which seemed inconsequential, now predisposes us to heart disease, high blood pressure and weakened immune systems. Mature adults who resist the importance of regular exercise and proper nutrition are also missing the joy of having a vibrantly healthy body and the positive mental and emotional states that result. It's never too late to start. Even older adults can become wonderfully fit, or at least acheive a significant improvement, perhaps feeling more youthful than they have in decades.

If you are a younger adult with aging parents, consider setting a good example for fitness. Helping your parents become more fit is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Regular exercise is the first example and probably the most important. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 30 minutes of exercise five times per week.  Sadly, the majority of American adults do not exercise at all. Help your parents get into a routine of regular exercise by inviting them to go for walks or show them a few basic exercises that can be done at home.

Exercise DVDs produced specifically for seniors can be a good option to get older adults exercising.  It is always wise to get a doctor's approval before beginning an exercise program.  This is especially true when one has been very sedentary and hasn't exercised in a long time, or if there are any health problems involved.  But if they have been given the greenlight and have an interest in working out in the privacy of their own home, here are some exercise DVDs for seniors which may be a good way to get them started.

Getting started is key.  Encourage your parents by helping them to see how it will add fun and joy to their lives.  It's best to present it an enjoyable choice they might like to make, rather than nagging them about what they "should" be doing.

You can also set a good example with nutrition. Invite your parents over for a healthy dinner, or take them out to a healthy place.   You can talk to them about eating smaller portions, and avoiding fried and processed foods.  Restaurant portions are usually at least twice the size of appropriate servings.  If your parents tend to overeat, set an example by boxing up half of your entree at the start of your meal, or by sharing an entree with your spouse.

One of the easiest changes to make is to stop drinking sodas and other sweet drinks - including artificially sweetened drinks which are even worse than sugar-laden choices.  Sweet drinks are filled with empty calories which can wreak havoc with your blood sugar and add extra pounds each year. 

As a person ages, they typically produce smaller amounts of the enzymes needed for digestion.  To compensate, it is usually helpful to avoid drinking liquids during meals as much as possible to prevent diluting the digestive enzymes.  Instead, try drinking a glass of water 20 to 30 minutes before a meal and avoiding drinking anything at meal time, except perhaps a small glass of red wine which offers some health benefits and doesn't interfere with digestion.

For most people, changing their eating habits late in life can be especially challenging.  Help your parents learn how to take small steps in the direction of improved nutritional habits, rather than attempting to change everything at once. As with exercise, try to make better eating habits a positive choice.

It helps if we actually walk the talk rather than just tell other people about what they should be doing differently.  Hopefully our loved ones will mimic the positive changes they see us making. We can enjoy making health-promoting choices, with the awareness that we're giving our extended family a good example to follow.

Your Millar chiropractor is an expert in using nutrition and exercise as a means of acheiving and maintaining good health. They will be happy to provide valuable information on both of these topics for you and your whole family.

1MetLife Demographic Profile. MetLife Mature Market Institute, New York, NY, 2006

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