Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Healthy Aging
Integrative Treatments For The Elderly: Living The Golden Years Like A Golden Girl
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Statistics show that there are more than 40 million individuals greater than 65 years old in the United States. This group of the population deserves special attention and consideration, particularly when it comes to health care. The new “senior” ranges from mildly active to the likes of the belovedBetty White, still working at age 91! Unfortunately, however, the elderly population often suffers from many medical problems that go untreated or undiagnosed. Here are a fewcommon health concerns amongst the elderly.
Constipation:This condition affects almost 30% of elderly men and women. While it may be the sign of a more serious problem such as an obstruction of the colon, typically, most constipation is attributed to medication use and lifestyle factors. Many individuals find it difficult to take in adequatefiberand fluid as they age. Additionally, increased medication use can also cause straining and constipation.
To alleviate this problem, consider adding 1-2 cups of peppermint tea to your diet. This can help improve your gut motility and get your bowels moving regularly and frequently. Consider also taking a probiotic to help restore the natural, healthy gut flora your body needs to keep eliminating waste regularly. Remember that movement also stimulates the gut. Attempt to stretch or go for a brisk walk for 15-20 minutes daily.
Malnutrition:It may be surprising, but almost 15% of individuals greater than age 60 have what is considered a “poor” diet. This may include too few meals, meals lacking in vital nutrients, or simply a lack of adequate produce and protein intake. This is frequently seen in seniors who live alone, or who have untreated dental problems, or difficulty swallowing. Medications may also alter taste, and suppress or alter appetite for certain foods.
While getting a balanced diet is the best way to obtain the necessary nutrients, it may be difficult to achieve this every day. Include a supplement with B vitamins (B2, B6, B12) to help improve energy and maintain healthy memory. Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation may also be necessary to protect your bones. Many multivitamins contain the necessary daily intake for seniors, but remember to mention this supplement to your physician as increased vitamin supplementation may interact with particular medications.
Pain:Many people believe that pain is a natural part of the aging process; fortunately, however, this is not true. Arthritis is a frequent cause of pain in the elderly, along with poor circulation,depression,shingles, and cancers. Despite being addressed by your personal physician, many individuals report pain that is persistent and poorly controlled.
Adding massage to your routine can help ease aching joints, decrease inflammation, and improve blood circulation. Acupuncture, has also shown benefit in the elderly for chronic pain, and pain associated with arthritis. While it may seem difficult, increased movement and exercise can strengthen and build lean muscle, which can support the joints and bones. Activities like yoga and aquatic therapy can also help with pain management and have minimal impact on the joints. Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish oil, withDHA and EPAhave been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects within the body. Fish oil, combined with the natural spice Turmeric, can further reduce inflammation and improve pain within the body. Consider adding 1-2 teaspoons of the spice to your evening meals or morning smoothie.
It is extremely important to discuss all treatments and supplements with your primary physician and any specialists you see. This is to ensure that there are no interactions between medications you may be taking and these supplements.
Remember that getting older, and "senior" living, isn't what it used to be. There aremany resourcesto live a healthy, pain free, and active life, regardless of your age.
This column is part of Everyday Health's special report, "From Boomers to Seniors: Aging and Health in America."
Video: The Science of Healthy Aging: Living Better, Not Just Longer
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