For many seniors, a lifetime of less-than-ideal eating habits can lead to the need for special diets to prevent the advancement of disease and stimulate the body’s natural defenses. The nutritional needs of residents are, therefore, an important consideration at any exceptional Assisted Living community.
Four chronic diseases – heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes – dominate the health issues faced by Americans today. Millions more have pre-diabetes, which increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
According to the National Council on Aging, 58 percent of adults 65 and older experience hypertension (high blood pressure) and 47% have high cholesterol. Arthritis, coronary heart disease, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also common conditions.
Generally, here are some food and nutrition options that help to combat these diseases and improve overall health:
Salmon – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they lower triglycerides (a type of fat that can lead to heart disease). Two servings of oily fish each week are recommended by the American Heart Association.
Walnuts – Nature’s natural snack can cut your risk of heart disease in half. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, flaxseed, and chia seeds are also good for you.
Fruits and Vegetables – Excellent food choices because of their nutrients and fiber. Berries deliver fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to lower risk of stroke. Most fruits are low in fat and sodium but tend to have more carbs than vegetables do. The American Diabetes Association recommends plant-based proteins, such as beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu.
Dark Chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa) – Flavanols lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. But beware of chocolate products full of sugar.
Red Wine (in moderation) – If someone enjoys alcohol, a glass for women/two for men can have some heart-healthy advantages. Beyond that, alcohol does present health risks.
What to Limit:
Fats from animal products, and trans fats (“partially hydrogenated oils”) raise your “bad” cholesterol and can make fat build up inside your arteries. Trim the skin off poultry and choose white breast meat if possible. Fried meats and higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs, are most dangerous to heart health.
Starches – Avoid processed grains, white bread and french fries. Also, cereals with lots of sugar.
Foods with high sodium – This may be the case with a lot of canned vegetables.
Living out our golden years eating food that is good for us, but perhaps not as appealing to our hunger cravings, is not a recipe for complete happiness, but in some cases, the health needs of a senior outweigh the privilege of being picky, if longevity is the larger goal. However, nothing we enjoy is completely off limits. These foods should be consumed in moderation as occasional treats — in tiny amounts. Think of it as a compromise between what the heart wants and what the heart needs.
When searching for an Assisted Living community for a loved one, families should ask whether staff can administer medications to treat conditions. Also, make sure you and your senior loved one enjoys a meal at the Assisted Living property, so you can discuss entrée choices and have an opportunity to meet some of the residents living there. It’s important to balance the seniors’ dining experience with his or her dietary needs, as advised by a doctor or nutritionist.
We look forward to sitting down to a meal with potential new residents and their loved ones. This is a great time to express any concerns you might have about dietary issues and learn more about our dietary staff and meal programs. We can help you come up with a food plan that also considers what the senior likes, any cultural or religious traditions, and other concerns like allergies.
Written by: Steven Stiefel