When you think about “growing old gracefully,” what comes to mind?
If you’re like most people, it’s a combination of many factors including maintaining a sharp mind, a healthy body, and a positive outlook.
With our aging population, there’s no shortage of advice and myriad strategies for staying young.
For those that want to take the “natural” approach to healthy aging, experts say maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is the foundation for good health as we grow older.
Specifically, research consistently supports these key strategies for aging gracefully:
- Consuming primarily a plant-based diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables and vegetarian protein sources such as nuts, beans and seeds.
- Eating at least two servings of oily fish per week.
- Limiting sugar, salt and saturated fats from meat and dairy.
- Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day most days of the week.
- Taking care of your emotional health by building an emotional support system and good coping skills.
- Getting plenty of rest—at least 7-8 hours of sleep on most nights.
But there’s much more you can do to naturally support your body as the years go by. We call it, “taking it to the next level.”
Level two goes beyond basic diet and exercise by providing your body with additional nutritional support in the form of supplements. You may wonder, “why is this necessary?” Well, there’s a few reasons:
- With age, our digestive system often doesn’t work as well as it used to. This can reduce the amount of nutrients we obtain from foods and explains why vitamin B12 deficiency is so common in older people.
- As we get older we are also more likely to take medication for a chronic condition. These medications can contribute to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. For example, statin drugs may affect CoQ10 levels which are necessary for energy production in muscles like the heart.
- Our skin loses some of its ability to make vitamin D from sunlight as we age. And because few foods contain adequate amounts of vitamin D, as many as 75% of seniors are deficient in this important nutrient that builds bones, supports muscle strength and promotes a healthy immune system.
So even if you eat a well balanced diet and maintain an active lifestyle, for most older people, dietary supplements are virtually a necessity.
Among the top recommended supplements for older adults are:
Multivitamins – Taking a multivitamin is a good way to fill nutritional gaps in your diet. Seniors are commonly deficient in many essential nutrients such B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Magnesium which are found in multivitamins.
Minerals – Your doctor may recommend a specific mineral complex to support bone health.
Fish Oil – The essential fatty acids in fish oil, EPA and DHA, promote normal cellular function, support cardiovascular and brain health as well as healthy skin and vision.
Vitamin D – While most multivitamins do contain some vitamin D, it is usually not enough to maintain or restore vitamin D levels in seniors who are typically deficient. Doses as high as 5,000 IU daily may be needed if you are deficient.
Resveratrol -- This plant-based antioxidant helps protect your body from free radical damage. It is often recommended to support cardiovascular and overall health. Another option is a supplement like Oximax Complex, which is blend of several antioxidants.
Ginkgo Biloba – This herb supports mental functioning by promoting circulation to the brain and other vital organs.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine – Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is a form of the amino acid carnitine that helps the body turn fat into energy. In the brain, ALCAR supports cognitive function, memory and concentration. Essential Brain Nutrition contains Acetyl-L-Carnitine and a complex of other nutrients for optimal mental performance.
It’s very important to speak with your doctor about your dietary habits and medications so you can determine which supplements you should take and the optimal dosages.
National Institutes of Health
Linus Pauling Institute
University of Maryland Medical Center