The way we eat throughout our lives impacts the way we age. Science has proven that a well-balanced and varied diet full of nutritious foods—like fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins—and limited in sugar, salt, saturated or solid fats, and alcoholic beverages is critical to good health.
A nutritious diet can help maintain a healthy weight and proper blood-sugar control, lower blood pressure, manage arthritis, reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, prevent and slow the progression of eye disease, keep bones and muscles strong, and help support brain health.
This means we all have the power to maximize and improve our health, add vitality to our years, and reduce the risk of disease,as well as increase our healthspans—the number of years we live in good health. And research shows that it’s never too late to make improvements.
But it is important to understand that our nutritional needs do change with age. Changes to taste and swallowing, medical conditions and medications that impact appetite, decreased ability to shop and prepare meals, declines in sense of thirst, social isolation, and other physical and environmental changes can all impact nutrition.
Without proper nutrition, our bodies can’t stay healthy, fight off disease, or deal with illnesses that we already have. Poor nutrition weakens our immune systems and leaves us vulnerable to infections,slower recovery, and wound healing. It can cause unhealthy weight changes and muscle loss that can lead to frailty, falls, broken bones, disability, loss of independence, and disease complications. It can also lead to nutrition-related diseases and conditions like malnutrition, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis.
The food and beverages we consume have a profound impact on our health—now and in the years to come. And it’s never too late to make improvements.
Malnutrition is a hidden epidemic in the United States and is undertreated and underrecognized. Malnutrition occurs when the body doesn’t get the right balance of nutrients and calories that it needs to stay healthy.