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What are the Nutrition Strategies for Baby Boomers Managing Chronic Disease?

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Aug 16, 2017 11:00:00 AM

This is the second article of a 4-part series on the role that nutrition plays in the health of Baby Boomers. Click here to read part one.

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A chronic disease is one that lingers for a while, such as diabetes and hypertension. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic disease as one that lasts at least three months. What many baby boomers might find surprising is the fact that they might have a chronic disease. Nearly 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease, and many may have more than one.

A lack of physical activity and poor eating habits might be partly to blame for that high number. Physical activity spread throughout the day and consuming nutrient dense foods have both shown to lower your chances of developing a chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis.

Antioxidants Reduce Your Risk of Developing Chronic Diseases

Doctors are finding out that cellular damage caused by free radicals could be at the heart of many chronic diseases, including cancer. Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, protect the body against free radicals. Foods that are rich in antioxidants such as spinach, broccoli and raspberries, might reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease.

Reducing Arthritis (and Inflammation) with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in fish and in fish oil supplements have been shown to improve joint mobility and reduce the chances of your developing arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory - meaning they reduce inflammation in the body - so eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids could help baby boomers fight arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Arthritis is currently the number one cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis is generally thought to afflict about 45 million Americans, but other estimates put the number at over 50 million Americans, or about 1 in 5 adults.

The good news is baby boomers that pick the right foods and get moderate exercise can significantly reduce their risk of developing arthritis, or having their arthritis worsen. Getting enough exercise can alleviate joint pain and strengthen the muscles around the joints; this helps increase mobility for those living with arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for your cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, and improving your heart health. Seafood, walnuts and spinach all have high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Calcium and Magnesium Strengthen Bones and Muscles and Improve Heart Health

Calcium and magnesium help to build strong bones and muscles as well as improve your cardiovascular (heart) health. Eating leafy greens high in calcium and magnesium could actually reduce your arthritis symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your joints and improve heart health too.

More Foods to Improve Cardiovascular (Heart) Health

There are a number of additional foods that you can conveniently find in your local grocery store that have been shown to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular issues.

Oatmeal, Oats and Beta Glucan 

Something as simple as incorporating oatmeal into your breakfast provides a dietary fiber known as beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. The beta glucan in oats has also been found to reduce the "bad" kind of LDL cholesterol.

That's important because high levels of LDL cholesterol have been linked to a higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease, a chronic condition that too many baby boomers today are at high risk of developing, or already have developed.

Oatmeal and oats can help improve your cholesterol numbers and lower your heart disease risk, but what are some other foods you might want to check out? Other high fiber foods like whole grains, dried beans and peas, and fruit can also improve your heart health.

Olive Oil and Monounsaturated Fats 

Another great food to consider incorporating into your diet is olive oil. For years, scientists in the United States were puzzled by what they called the Mediterranean diet paradox: Many people in Greece, Italy and France consumed high levels of fat, but had lower rates of heart disease. It turned out that the monounsaturated fatty acids found in the olive oil that people in Greece and Italy drizzle on their salads had heart-protective benefits. Nuts like almonds, pecans, and cashews are also high in monounsaturated fats.

For more information on nutrients that help keep baby boomers healthy, download our free eBook:

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Topics: Nutrition, Senior Nutrition, Baby Boomers

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