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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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Exergaming a salve for aging hazards

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Mar 12, 2020 in Aging, Exercise, Technology

In a growing trend to harness the positive potential of technology for our aging population, researchers have created video games for older adults that take exercise and multitasking to new dimensions.

 

One study had people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, riding stationary bikes while playing video games, improving their memory and other complex cognitive functions.

 

Another team used interactive video games to improve people’s reflexes and quick-stepping to reduce risk of falls – another major problem with aging – and are following it up with a gambling-style approach to get players addicted to exercise.

 

 

Chasing dragons and exotic fruits

 

Building on previous success improving cognitive health with interactive exergaming, Cay Anderson-Hanley from the University of Queensland recruited three groups of older adults with MCI.

 

For six months, two groups road along a scenic virtual reality bike path or chased dragons and collected coins on stationary bikes placed at several different sites and completed cognitive tests.

 

Their results were compared with another group that played video games on a laptop without pedalling, and a previous research cohort that rode stationary bikes without gaming.

 

Both the first two groups showed improvements in verbal memory, physical health and the brain’s executive functions – higher order cognitive abilities.

 

“Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It is key to remaining independent in later life,” says Anderson-Hanley. “For example, it allows you to cook two things on the stove at once. It makes sure you don’t forget that you are boiling the water while also having something in the oven.”

 

The stepping game, “StepKinnection”, is a Wii-style program that gets players travelling the world collecting exotic fruits from 32 different countries by stepping quickly on the items as they appear. Repeating this action while gradually increasing speed and difficulty improves reflexes and balance.

 

The game turned out to a be popular way to get active, and players showed 17 per cent improvement in reflexes, ability to take quick steps and walking ability.

 

Encouraged by these findings, lead researcher Jaime Garcia, from the University of Technology in Sydney, is now linking a computerised Solitaire card game to physical activity to see if rewards for moving around encourage older adults to be more active.

 

Their activity levels are monitored with a Fitbit activity tracker and if they go for a walk they are given money that can be used to play Solitaire.

 

“In this approach, we are trying to make exercise one of the game mechanics. If you go for a walk, we give you money and that money can be used in the game,” Garcia told Australian Ageing Agenda.

 

If they want to play, they must exercise or miss out. And the more they walk, the more money they get to play, which Garcia hopes will get them addicted to the game.

 

 

Lifestyle solutions

 

These novel approaches underpin a global imperative to get people more active – a critical lifestyle approach to aging well, especially important at a time when people are moving less.

 

It’s established that staying active is one of the cornerstones of preventing dementia, and that fast walking is linked to healthier aging. Even people who are virtually immobilised with dementia can benefit from personalised movement.

 

And although some are trying to find easy alternatives like taking a pill, there’s just no substitute for moving our limbs, strengthening muscles and getting the blood gushing through our veins.

 

 

References

 

Image source: Cay Anderson-Hanley

https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2020/02/21/trial-aims-to-get-seniors-walking-to-improve-their-gaming/

https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2016/02/22/stepping-game-pilot-shows-promising-results-in-fight-against-falls/

https://nationalseniors.com.au/news/latest/exergaming-may-help-alzheimers

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180515081728.htm

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Plants, protein and vegetarians

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 26, 2020 in Aging, Protein, Sustainability

“But where do you get your protein from?” This is a common question of vegetarians, perpetuated by a long-standing myth that if you don’t eat your meat you will become weak and emaciated.

 

This myth has been well and truly busted – but it doesn’t mean that people who eschew meat can rest on their laurels. Like all older adults, vegetarians need to be mindful of meeting their protein needs.

 

 

Protein matters

 

It is true that we need protein, even more so with aging. While Australian guidelines spout 0.75g/kg bodyweight per day, this falls short of international guidelines stipulating 1.2g/kg for older adults – and recent evidence putting it as high as 1.5g/kg.

 

These levels help counteract diminishing lean muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging, reducing risk of sarcopenia and associated falls, fractures, hospital admissions, declining independence and mortality.

 

And it’s not just muscles that need protein. These industrious amino acid assemblages support wound healing, bone density, immunity, lung function and cognition.

 

So how do vegetarians get theirs?

 

 

Unravelling plant protein

 

When combined with exercise, research shows it doesn’t matter which type of protein people eat – plant, animal or otherwise – to boost muscle health.

 

But while plant sources comprise 40% of the world’s protein intake, Australians get 60% of theirs from animal origins.

 

And although the Australian Guide to Health Eating recommends legumes as a primary protein source for vegetarians, a review found that legumes constitute a meagre 0.44% of diets in aged care facilities – served with meat.

 

Even for non-vegetarians, legumes are a no-brainer – they are cheap, versatile, packed with nutrients and fibre and one of the best solutions to soft-textured diets for older adults with swallowing or chewing difficulties.

 

The scrumptious, wholesome meals that can be cooked with legumes are only limited by the imagination, ranging from a vast range of soups and vegetable patties to dals, dips and casseroles.

 

Other non-meat sources of protein abound too, including eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, wholegrains, seeds and hemp.

 

For older adults with higher protein needs due to poor appetite, declining muscle mass and strength or illness, eggs and dairy (cream or milk powder) can be used to fortify meals and make a great base for snacks.

 

Beyond protein, evidence suggests that a good quality diet is most important for preventing frailty and fragility, providing all the nutrients, polyphenols and fibre essential for good health.

 

After addressing dietary needs, some nutrition supplements might be advisable. Vegetarians and vegans would benefit from an algal source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA that is consumed directly through deep-sea fish.

 

Vegans may need supplementation to meet requirements for Vitamins D and B12. Pea protein can be used as a concentrated protein source where needed. Contrary to popular opinion, there is plenty of iron in plant foods – including legumes.

 

 

What it means for residential aged care

 

With a growing population embracing various diets without animal-sourced food – for health, ethical or environmental reasons – aged care facilities need to step up and leave the antiquated “meat and three veg” behind.

 

Special diets aside, the variety and quality of food provided in residential care is in dire need of an overhaul to address nutritional, cultural and personal needs and preferences in a way that enhances appetite and the social bonding that can only come from sharing a tasty meal in a pleasant environment.

 

 

References

 

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/4/protein-and-vegetarian-diets

https://www.nutritionsociety.org/papers/can-plant-based-proteins-support-healthy-musculoskeletal-ageing

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-diet-aging/cutting-back-on-vegetable-protein-tied-to-unhealthy-aging-idUSKCN1VB1ZB

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/09/counting-beans-why-2020-should-be-the-year-of-the-legume?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://theconversation.com/why-iron-is-such-an-important-part-of-your-diet-69974

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Slow walkers could age faster

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 20, 2019 in Aging, Exercise, Mobility

Middle-aged people who walk slowly age more quickly, according to new research, while fast walkers are physically and mentally younger.

 

The study, conducted in nearly 1,000 New Zealanders aged 45, found that slow walkers also had older looking faces – independently rated from photos – and smaller, older-looking brains.

 

People with the slowest gait performed more poorly on a range of physical tests including grip strength, balance, coordination and two-minute step tests and reported more physical limitations in their daily lives.

 

Rate of aging measures showed they had been growing old five years faster from the age of 26 than those with the fastest walking speed. Slow walkers had other signs of accelerated aging compared to fast walkers such as unhealthier lungs, teeth and immune systems.

 

Added to that, they had poorer neuropsychological functioning across a range of cognitive assessments including working memory, processing speed, verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning.

 

 

Tell-tale signs start early

 

Even more unexpected, the study found that walking speed at 45 years could be predicted by childhood cognitive performance on tests of intelligence, language and motor skills.

 

Participants, born in the 1970s, had taken part in the longitudinal Dunedin study since the age of three, providing regular tests of physical health and brain function as well as brain scans.

 

“This study found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age,” Professor Terrie Moffitt told the BBC.

 

The team said the results were “an amazing surprise”, and the first time walking speed earlier in life has been linked to premature aging.

 

 

Walking in older age

 

Doctors often measure walking speed in older adults over 65 as an indicator of general health, as it is linked to muscle strength, lung function, balance, spine strength and vision.

 

These reflect the importance of mobility for remaining independent and retaining quality of life.

 

More seriously, slower gait in this age group has also been associated with poorer rehabilitation, greater incidence of diseases – including heart disease and dementia – and shorter life span.

 

“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” Moffitt told Medical News Today.

 

It just goes to show that age is relative – and it’s never too late to start moving, although clearly the sooner the better.

 

A brisk walking pace is generally considered as 100 steps per minute, or around five kilometres per hour – but of course this is relative to people’s fitness levels.

 

A good guide is to walk faster than you would normally, at a pace that makes you breathe a bit harder and your heart beat faster.

 

When you get a little sweaty and out of breath, this is considered moderate-intensity activity, which has several known health benefits such as improving balance and coordination, and keeping heart, lungs and circulation healthy.

 

In turn, this lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It could also strengthen bones and muscles and help prevent osteoporosis, although a range of different activities are recommended for optimal benefits.

 

The key is to find enjoyable walking routes – alone or with a friend, partner or walking group if that’s more motivating – and ways to get active that are fun and enjoyable.

 

Just pick up the pace up a little.

 

 

References

 

https://www.sciencealert.com/there-s-a-strange-lifelong-link-between-being-a-slow-walker-and-ageing-faster

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326648.php

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50015982

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/walking-speed-survival/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3080184/

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/average-walking-speed#average-speed-by-age

 

Multiple medicines could be harming older adults

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Aug 21, 2019 in Aged Care, Aging

Nearly one million Australians over 70 are taking five or more medicines every day, and this number is continuing to grow, researchers from the Universities of Western Australia and New South Wales have revealed in the Medical Journal of Australia.

 

Using multiple drugs together, especially five or more, can produce several adverse outcomes including side effects, dysphagia, nutritional deficiencies, impaired cognition, falls, hospital admissions and mortality.

 

In fact, the World Health Organisation has set a target to halve polypharmacy and other unsafe prescription practices as part of its third global patient safety challenge to reduce medication-related harm.

 

 

So many pills…

 

Older adults tend to have several chronic conditions and often take different drugs to reduce the symptoms and risk of complications. People with higher needs, hospital inpatients and aged care residents tend to take the most meds.

 

Drawing from a nationally representative sample of people eligible for PBS-listed drugs between 2006 and 2017, Dr Amy Page and co-authors found that the prevalence of polypharmacy grew by nine percent.

 

And because of population growth, there was a 52 percent increase in the number of people taking five or more medicines a day over that period. In community care, the number of older adults receiving medications has grown rapidly, doubling over the past 20 years.

 

The researchers say these estimates may be conservative, because they don’t factor in medicines and supplements obtained without a prescription.

 

Some medicines stopped being subsidised and would also have not been recorded; this may account for the fact that medication use started to decline again after 2016 – although it was close to one million in 2017.

 

It must also be noted that some drugs are being combined to reduce pill burden, and this should be factored into future investigations.

 

 

Taking action

 

The researchers report that Australia’s polypharmacy rates are higher than the US or the UK and have been for some time.

 

While some medications may be necessary for older adults, there is widespread concern about inappropriate polypharmacy and its detrimental outcomes.

 

Professor Sarah Hilmer from the University of Sydney is one advocate for “deprescribing” unnecessary drugs – noting that some are used as preventative measures and are not even addressing an existing condition.

 

Sometimes people continue taking drugs into old age when they no longer need them. “Compounding this,” says Hilmer, “is the issue of the prescribing cascade – doctors prescribing a drug to treat the effects of another drug to treat the effects of another drug, without realising they are doing so.”

 

Her team is working on written resources for consumers as well as doctors.

 

Dr Page agrees, saying that strategies to improve people’s awareness about the potential risks in taking several medications should target both the public and health professionals.

 

 

References

 

https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/older-australians-taking-mutiple-medicines-may-be-putting-health-at-risk

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2019/211/2/polypharmacy-among-older-australians-2006-2017-population-based-study

https://www.who.int/patientsafety/medication-safety/en/

https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2018/08/09/polypharmacy-in-the-elderly-new-project-investigates.html

 

 

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