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Healthy eating in older age

Heart Research UK invests in pioneering medical research, ground-breaking training and education, and in communities to improve their heart health for themselves. Here Dr HELEN FLAHERTY, Head of Health Promotion at Heart Research UK, sets out six tips to keep the heart healthy in older age.

Healthy Eating in Older Age

It is sometimes believed that older adults (65 years or over) do not need to eat as much because they may be less physically active than younger adults. However, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is important for maintaining good health at all ages. Older adults are vulnerable to malnutrition and it is recommended that they eat the same amount as younger adults. We have some tips for eating well and looking after your heart in older age.

Keep an eye on your weight

The best way to know if you are eating too much or too little is to monitor your weight over time and check if your weight is stable. If you are losing weight without trying, you should speak to your GP.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can occur when you lose more fluid through sweating and urination than you consume. Dehydration is a common problem in older adults. Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses or cups of non-alcoholic fluid every day, such as water, tea and coffee. Keeping hydrated can reduce your risk of a heart attack, while helping you to maintain your cognitive ability.

Get enough fibre

Constipation is a problem for many people in later life. Try to prevent constipation by staying physically active, keeping hydrated and eating foods that are high in fibre. Foods that are high in fibre, such as fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholemeal breakfast cereals and brown rice, play an important role in reducing your cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy.

Include good sources of protein every day

Eating adequate amounts of foods that are high in protein, as well as getting plenty of physical activity, can help to prevent muscle loss in older age. Good sources of protein include chicken or turkey, canned tuna, soybeans, tofu, eggs and dairy products. If you eat fish, try to eat two portions each week, one of which should be an oily fish, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.

Include plenty of fruit and veg
Aim to have at least five portions of fruit and veg every day. Fruit and veg are packed with nutrients and fibre to help keep your heart healthy. Fresh, tinned, frozen and dried fruit and veg all count towards your five a day and you can count one glass of fresh juice as a portion.