Whether we admit it or not, we are all getting older, and as medical practice improves, Ireland as a nation has an increasingly aging population.
So are there ways to improve the quality of life in old age? Could we even reduce or even delay the effects of old age? Well, this week I’m going to introduce you to the Fountain of Youth. The good news is that there are interventions we can undertake today at any age that will serve us well into old age.
As you get older, things like decreasing muscle mass (sarcopenia) and decreasing bone density (osteoporosis) are a reality in both sexes. However, these conditions are even more common in women, especially as they approach menopause due to falling levels of estrogen.
The potential problem with sarcopenia and osteoporosis is the increased likelihood of falls and injuries, especially fractures, that lead to prolonged periods of sedentary work. This sedentary lifestyle during recovery also increases the possibility of further muscle loss, and so the cycle continues. There is also an increased chance of repeated falls.
There is some good news, however. Diet and resistance-based training can be used as interventions to prevent the occurrence of sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Whether you fall into the age group, approaching old age, or are in the prime of your life, the good news is these interventions can be used at any stage of life to show improvement.
With sarcopenia, the benefits of a resistance-based exercise program can be seen and focused on getting adequate amounts of protein with each meal. Try to consume at least one serving of 0.4-0.6 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. So for a person weighing 80 kg, they would be looking for at least 32-48 g of protein per day.
Fish oil supplementation can also be a good approach for anyone who doesn’t eat enough oily fish. Recommendations are in the range of 2-12g / day. Not only will this support joint health, but it will also improve your immune system and cardiovascular health. For vegetarians / vegans, a seaweed supplement could replace fish oil.
Finally, creatine supplementation of 5 g / day has been shown to lower the incidence rate of sarcopenia and provide cognitive health benefits that can decrease with age.
In osteoporosis, resistance training and physical activity can also play a big role in maintaining bone density. From a nutritional point of view, focusing on your calcium and vitamin D intake would be an excellent starting point. For those who have problems with food intake (which is common in old age), consider supplementing calcium when you are not getting adequate amounts from your food sources. For men over 50 the RNI (Recommended Nutrient Intake) is 1000 mg / day and for women over 50 the RNI is 1200 mg / day.
Vitamin D is needed to support calcium absorption and protect bones and is something we cannot get enough of here in Ireland, especially during the dark winter months. So ideally, this is also a consideration for supplementation. For areas with low solar radiation like Ireland we should aim for a range of 2500 IU / day.
If you have any underlying medical conditions or have questions about the dosage you should be taking, talk to your doctor first.
Micheál Penston is the head coach and nutritionist for FM Fitness & Nutrition, based in Westport, Co. Mayo. They specialize in helping busy men and women create the healthiest version of themselves by educating and empowering them in all areas of their lifestyle: fitness, nutrition, recreation, and behaviors. You can get a FREE copy of the 5 Stage Health & Fitness Kickstarter or learn more about their online and personal coaching methods at www.fmfitnessnutrition.com or on social media @fmfitnessnutrition