Health Topics

Seniors

Nutrition for Older Adults
National Library of Medicine
Seniors' Nutrition
What is nutrition and why is it important for older adults?

Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet so your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Nutrients are substances in foods. They include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age. It gives you energy and can help you control your weight. It may also help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

But as you age, your body and life change, and so does what you need to stay healthy. For example, you may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. Some older adults need more protein.

What can make it harder for me to eat healthy as I age?

Some changes that can happen as you age can make it harder for you to eat healthy. These include changes in your

  • Home life, such as suddenly living alone or having trouble getting around
  • Health, which can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself
  • Medicines, which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or take away your appetite
  • Income, which means that you may not have as much money for food
  • Sense of smell and taste
  • Problems chewing or swallowing your food
How can I eat healthy as I age?

To stay healthy as you age, you should

  • Eat foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories, such as
    • Fruits and vegetables (choose different types with bright colors)
    • Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
    • Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that has added vitamin D and calcium
    • Seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
    • Beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Avoid empty calories. These are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol.
  • Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat. You especially want to try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Trans fats are processed fats in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. You may find them in some store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.
  • Drink enough liquids, so you don't get dehydrated. Some people lose their sense of thirst as they age. And certain medicines might make it even more important to have plenty of fluids.
  • Be physically active. If you have started losing your appetite, exercising may help you to feel hungrier.
What can I do if I am having trouble eating healthy?

Sometimes health issues or other problems can make it hard to eat healthy. Here are some tips that might help:

  • If you are tired of eating alone, try organizing some potluck meals or cooking with a friend. You can also look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility.
  • If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems
  • If you are having trouble swallowing, try drinking plenty of liquids with your meal. If that does not help, check with your health care provider. A health condition or medicine could be causing the problem.
  • If you're having trouble smelling and tasting your food, try adding color and texture to make your food more interesting
  • If you aren't eating enough, add some healthy snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories
  • If an illness is making it harder for you to cook or feed yourself, check with your health care provider. He or she may recommend an occupational therapist, who can help you find ways to make it easier.

NIH: National Institute on Aging


Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Nutrition Disorders
Older Adults
Food and Nutrition
... look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility. If you ...
Exercise for Older Adults
National Library of Medicine
Fitness
Seniors' Fitness

Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. There are four main types and each type is different. Doing them all will give you more benefits.

  • Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, and biking are examples.
  • Strength exercises make your muscles stronger. Lifting weights or using a resistance band can build strength.
  • Balance exercises help prevent falls
  • Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber

If you have not been active, you can start slowly and work up to your goal. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health. Check with your health care provider on what is right for you.

NIH: National Institute on Aging


Exercise
Older Adults
Wellness and Lifestyle
Fitness and Exercise
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. There are four main types and each type is different. Doing them all ...
Older Adult Health
National Library of Medicine
Aging

People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there's no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. You need to know what to expect. Some changes may just be part of normal aging, while others may be a warning sign of a medical problem. It is important to know the difference, and to let your health care provider know if you have any concerns.

Having a healthy lifestyle can help you to deal with normal aging changes and make the most of your life.


Aging
Older Adults
Population Groups
People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there's no getting around one thing: as we age, ...
Healthy Aging
National Library of Medicine

People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there's no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. There are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Keep your mind and body active
  • Don't smoke
  • Get regular checkups
  • Practice safety habits to avoid accidents and prevent falls

NIH: National Institute on Aging


Healthy Aging
Older Adults
Wellness and Lifestyle
... U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there's no ...
Dementia
National Library of Medicine
Senility

Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. However, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language. Although dementia is common in very elderly people, it is not part of normal aging.

Many different diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and stroke. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases. While these drugs cannot cure dementia or repair brain damage, they may improve symptoms or slow down the disease.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Dementia
Mental Health and Behavior
Older Adults
Brain and Nerves
Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to ...
Drugs and Young People
National Library of Medicine
Substance Abuse
Teen Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is a serious public health problem. It affects almost every community and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater hazard than in older people. This is because their brains are not yet fully developed. As a result, the brains of young people may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than adult brains.

Abused drugs include

  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But it is better to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Substance-Related Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Substance Abuse Problems
Drug abuse is a serious public health problem. It affects almost every community and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater ...
Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle
National Library of Medicine
Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting Disease
What is an inactive lifestyle?

Being a couch potato. Not exercising. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle. You have probably heard of all of these phrases, and they mean the same thing: a lifestyle with a lot of sitting and lying down, with very little to no exercise.

In the United States and around the world, people are spending more and more time doing sedentary activities. During our leisure time, we are often sitting: while using a computer or other device, watching TV, or playing video games. Many of our jobs have become more sedentary, with long days sitting at a desk. And the way most of us get around involves sitting - in cars, on buses, and on trains.

How does an inactive lifestyle affect your body?

When you have an inactive lifestyle,

  • You burn fewer calories. This makes you more likely to gain weight.
  • You may lose muscle strength and endurance, because you are not using your muscles as much
  • Your bones may get weaker and lose some mineral content
  • Your metabolism may be affected, and your body may have more trouble breaking down fats and sugars
  • Your immune system may not work as well
  • You may have poorer blood circulation
  • Your body may have more inflammation
  • You may develop a hormonal imbalance
What are the health risks of an inactive lifestyle?

Having an inactive lifestyle can be one of the causes of many chronic diseases. By not getting regular exercise, you raise your risk of

  • Obesity
  • Heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers
  • Osteoporosis and falls
  • Increased feelings of depression and anxiety

Having a sedentary lifestyle can also raise your risk of premature death. And the more sedentary you are, the higher your health risks are.

How can I get started with exercise?

If you have been inactive, you may need to start slowly. You can keep adding more exercise gradually. The more you can do, the better. But try not to feel overwhelmed, and do what you can. Getting some exercise is always better than getting none. Eventually, your goal can be to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age and health.

There are many different ways to get exercise; it is important to find the types that are best for you. You can also try to add activity to your life in smaller ways, such as at home and at work.

How can I be more active around the house?

There are some ways you can be active around your house:

  • Housework, gardening, and yard work are all physical work. To increase the intensity, you could try doing them at a more vigorous pace.
  • Keep moving while you watch TV. Lift hand weights, do some gentle yoga stretches, or pedal an exercise bike. Instead of using the TV remote, get up and change the channels yourself.
  • Work out at home with a workout video (on your TV or on the internet)
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood. It can be more fun if you walk your dog, walk your kids to school, or walk with a friend.
  • Stand up when talking on the phone
  • Get some exercise equipment for your home. Treadmills and elliptical trainers are great, but not everyone has the money or space for one. Less expensive equipment such as yoga balls, exercise mats, stretch bands, and hand weights can help you get a workout at home too.
How can I be more active at work?

Most of us sit when we are working, often in front of a computer. In fact, less than 20 percent of Americans have physically active jobs. It can be challenging to fit physical activity into your busy workday, but here are some tips to help you get moving:

  • Get up from your chair and move around at least once an hour
  • Stand when you are talking on the phone
  • Find out whether your company can get you a stand-up or treadmill desk
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Use your break or part of your lunch hour to walk around the building
  • Stand up and walk to a colleague's office instead of sending an email
  • Have "walking" or standing meetings with co-workers instead of sitting in a conference room

Sedentary Behavior
Wellness and Lifestyle
Fitness and Exercise
What is an inactive lifestyle? Being a couch potato. Not exercising. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle. You have probably heard of all of these phrases, ...
Histoplasmosis
National Library of Medicine

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus (or mold) called Histoplasma. The fungus is common in the eastern and central United States. It grows in soil and material contaminated with bat or bird droppings. You get infected by breathing the fungal spores. You cannot get the infection from someone else.

Histoplasmosis is often mild, with no symptoms. If you do get sick, it usually affects your lungs. Symptoms include feeling ill, fever, chest pains, and a dry cough. In severe cases, histoplasmosis spreads to other organs. This is called disseminated disease. It is more common in infants, young children, seniors, and people with immune system problems.

Your doctor might do a variety of tests to make the diagnosis, including a chest x-ray, CT scan of the lungs, or examining blood, urine, or tissues for signs of the fungus. Mild cases usually get better without treatment. Treatment of severe or chronic cases is with antifungal drugs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Histoplasmosis
Infections
... It is more common in infants, young children, seniors, and people with immune system problems. Your doctor ...
Impaired Driving
National Library of Medicine
Driving
Drugged Driving
Drunk Driving
Distracted driving

Impaired driving is dangerous. It's the cause of more than half of all car crashes. It means operating a motor vehicle while you are affected by

  • Alcohol
  • Legal or illegal drugs
  • Sleepiness
  • Distractions, such as using a cell phone or texting
  • Having a medical condition which affects your driving

For your safety and the safety of others, do not drive while impaired. Have someone else drive you or take public transportation when you cannot drive. If you need to take a call or send a text message, pull over.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Distracted Driving
Driving Under the Influence
Safety Issues
Impaired driving is dangerous. It's the cause of more than half of all car crashes. It means operating a motor vehicle while you are affected by Alcohol Legal ...
Kidney Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Nephritis
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Renal Disease

You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. They are near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. Inside each kidney there are about a million tiny structures called nephrons. They filter your blood. They remove wastes and extra water, which become urine. The urine flows through tubes called ureters. It goes to your bladder, which stores the urine until you go to the bathroom.

Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons. This damage may leave kidneys unable to remove wastes. Causes can include genetic problems, injuries, or medicines. You have a higher risk of kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a close family member with kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease damages the nephrons slowly over several years. Other kidney problems include

  • Cancer
  • Cysts
  • Stones
  • Infections

Your doctor can do blood and urine tests to check if you have kidney disease. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Kidney Diseases
Kidneys and Urinary System
You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. They are near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. Inside each kidney there are about ...