What does Fuel Your Body mean?
What we put into our body affects how our body works, moves and reacts to different situations in life, regardless of age. Fuelling your body improves your health by providing your body with the correct nutrients you need to live a positive, happy and healthy life. Encourage older adults to fuel their body by:
- Eating regular meals and snacks with a variety of foods from all five food groups
- Drinking more water and staying hydrated
- Drinking less alcohol
Poor nutrition can cause dizziness, weakness, light-headedness, headaches and reduced concentration, which can increase the risk of having a fall. Following these recommendations will ensure older adults are well nourished, keeping strong, healthy and independent and prevent falls.
Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients of particular importance for older adults as they play key roles in maintaining and improving bone and muscle function and strength.
Vitamin D is essential to bone and muscle health. It also has the capacity to improve dynamic balance and proximal muscle strength. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher risk of falls in older people. One third of Australians do not meet their daily required vitamin D levels for bone health.
The amount of sunshine an individual needs daily depends on: skin colour, location and season. For people with moderately fair skin, exposure of the arms (or equivalent) for 6-7 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon in summer will maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Dark skinned people will require 3-6 times longer exposure.
For those who receive no or very little sun exposure, vitamin D supplementation is recommended to prevent vitamin D deficiency. NPS Medicine Wise Vitamin D tests and deficiency Fact Sheet provides information regarding who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and how to be tested.
Clinical trials have shown that calcium supplementation, especially when it is combined with vitamin D, helps to reduce the rate of bone loss and fractures in those who are deficient.
It is recommended that an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of calcium is (1000-1300mg, depending on age and sex) is achieved through diet, including ‘calcium rich’ foods. Three serves of dairy foods per day, or calcium-rich non-dairy alternatives are recommended. However, if individual circumstances mean that this is not possible, supplementation may be needed.
Useful information to provide older adults about healthy eating:
The Australian Dietary Guidelines are a joint initiative between the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Department of Health and Ageing. They provide recommendations (based on the latest scientific evidence) on how to eat a healthy diet which can improve the health of Australians and reduce the burden of preventable diet-related death, illness and disability. The guidelines apply to all healthy Australians from the age of six months through to 70 years of age, as well as those with common health conditions such as being overweight. They do not apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, or to the frail elderly.
Eat for Health website http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/.
Healthy Eating for Adults: Eat for Health and Wellbeing is a great brochure to provide older adults who would like more information on how to select nutritious foods and appropriate servings for their age.
When talking to older adults about their eating:
- It is important to evaluate potentially reversible causes of poor nutritional intake, including oral health and dentition problems, lack of ability to purchase and store food, inability to prepare meals, poor appetite, poor diet and difficulties swallowing.