It is projected that the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double by 2060 (Population Reference Bureau, 2016).
o January 2016: There were 46 million older adults
o 2060: It is projected that there will be over 98 million older adults
• In the near future, this age group will make up about 24 percent of the total population.
• The older population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.
• Older adults are working longer, and these levels are projected to increase by 2022.
As we age, some of our nutrient needs change. Some nutrients become more important in order to maintain our health, including vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, fiber, folic acid and water. If you are eating a plant-based diet, you may need to supplement your diet to get some of these nutrients.
VITAMIN B12: After the age of 50, we don’t get enough vitamin B12, so a deficiency may develop.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:
o Memory problems
o Nerve problems
o Difficulty walking
Since these symptoms are common in older adults and can be caused by something else, a deficiency is easily missed in this age group. This vitamin helps keep your nerves and red blood cells healthy.
- Fortified cereals
- Lean meat
- Some fish and seafood
CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D: These nutrients are very important for bone health. Bone health is important for everyone to help prevent osteoporosis.
CALCIUM: Most of the calcium in the body is stored in the teeth and bones.
- Vitamin D-fortified milk or yogurt
- Fortified cereals and fruit juices
- Dark green leafy vegetables
If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin with calcium, it should include vitamin D.
VITAMIN D: Vitamin D plays a role in protecting the bones since the body requires it to absorb calcium.
If there is not enough vitamin D in the diet, bone loss and lower bone density may occur, and broken bones are more likely due to falls. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. The skin is able to make vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is stored in the body and for later use.. In addition to the risk of skin cancer, older adults tend to spend less time in the sun and therefore do not produce enough vitamin D this way. Most people need supplements of vitamin D.
- Milk and other dairy products fortified with vitamin D
- Some brands of other dairy products, orange juice, soymilk and cereals also fortified with vitamin D
FIBER: Eating more fiber-rich foods helps older adults stay regular. Fiber also can help lower the risk for heart disease and prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Foods Rich in Fiber:
- Whole-grain breads and cereals
- Beans and peas
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
POTASSIUM: Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium (salt) may lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Foods Rich in Potassium:
- Low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt
FOLIC ACID: New research shows that older adults may benefit from increasing their intake of folic acid. This seems to help lower the risk of stroke and hearts disease.
Foods Rich in Folic Acid:
- Wholegrain cereals
- Leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
WATER: Water is a nutrient required for life.
It is important to replace the water that is lost through sweating, and using the restroom. Drinking caffeinated beverages and sugar sweetened beverages does not help with replacing lost fluids. Older adults should speak with their health care provider if they are on water restriction, or have bladder issues that make them afraid to drink water.
Some studies — but not all — have found a link between an eating pattern known as the “Mediterranean diet” and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Research has found a stronger and more consistent link between a Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet may have additional health benefits, including a reduced risk of certain cancers.
In general, a Mediterranean diet emphasizes these foods:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Whole grain breads and pasta
- Beans, lentils and other legumes
- Tree nuts (for example, almonds, walnuts and pistachios)
- Olive oil as the primary fat for cooking, dressing salads and dipping bread
- Fish and shellfish eaten several times weekly
- Occasional chicken and poultry
- Very occasional red meat
- Moderate amounts of red wine with meals (for example, up to 1 glass a day for women and 2 glasses for men)
Experts generally consider the Mediterranean diet a healthy way to eat. It doesn’t rely on fads or forbid or over-emphasize specific foods. It doesn’t impose strict limits on calories or fats, but it generally includes a healthy balance of foods. It may reduce the risk of several health conditions, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
The diet’s possible effect on heart disease risk could be one way it may help lower Alzheimer’s risk. However, we don’t know for certain whether the diet has either of these benefits.
A relationship between factors does not imply causality. Research about the possible benefits of a Mediterranean diet compares results among groups of people: those who followed the diet and those who did not.
Such research can show that two factors — such as the Mediterranean diet and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s — appear to be linked. But it can’t prove that one factor causes the other. And it can’t tell us anything about individual outcomes or benefits.
For an individual, there’s no guarantee that following a Mediterranean diet — or switching from another diet to a Mediterranean diet — can protect you from any specific health condition.
The MIND (or Mediterranean - DASH - Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean plus DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. According to the scientists who developed it, the MIND diet specifically includes nutrients and food that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain.
Study results from four large population-based studies at the at the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London support a connection between these good dietary practices and better cognition in old age. Scientists found that sticking to the specifically designed MIND diet was associated with 30 to 35 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.
Examples of recent research about the Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer’s disease
- A 2010 report extending a 2006 study found that those who followed the diet most closely had a 60 percent reduction in Alzheimer’s risk compared with those who followed the diet least closely.
- Another 2010 study in about 1,400 older French adults found that the Mediterranean diet had little effect on cognitive decline and no detectable impact on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.