Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all getting older, and as medical practices improve, Ireland as a nation has an increasingly ageing population.
So are there ways we can improve the quality of our lives as we age? Could we even reduce or even delay the effects of old age? Well, this week, I’m going to introduce you to the fountain of youth. The good news is that there are interventions that we can do today at any age that will serve us well into our later years.
As we age, things like declining muscle mass (sarcopenia ) and declining bone mineral density (osteoporosis ) are a reality in both sexes. However, these conditions are even more prevalent in females, especially as they reach menopause due to declining oestrogen levels.
The potential issue with sarcopenia and osteoporosis is the increased likelihood of falls and injuries, particularly fractures, leading to prolonged periods of being sedentary. This sedentary lifestyle during recovery will also increase the possibility of further muscle degradation, and so the cycle continues. There is also an increased likelihood of repeat falls.
However, there is some good news. Nutrition and resistance-based exercise can be used as interventions to prevent the onset of both sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Whether you fall into the old age bracket, are approaching old age, or in the prime of your life, the good news is that these interventions can be applied at any stage of life to show improvements.
For sarcopenia, benefits can be found from a resistance-based exercise program and focus on getting adequate amounts of protein at each meal. Aim for at least one protein serving per day of 0.4-0.6g of protein per kg bodyweight. So for an 80kg individual, they would be looking at at least 32-48g of protein per day.
Fish oil supplementation may also be a good approach for any individual not eating enough oily fish. Recommendations are in the region of 2-12g/day. This will not only assist joint health but also improve your immune system and cardiovascular health. For vegetarians/vegans, a kelp supplement could replace fish oils.
Lastly, creatine supplementation of 5g/day is shown to lower the incidence rates of sarcopenia and offer benefits to cognitive health which can decline with age.
For osteoporosis, resistance exercise and physical activity can also play a huge role in preserving bone density. From a nutrition standpoint, focusing on calcium and vitamin D intake would be an excellent starting point. For those who struggle with food intake (which is a common occurrence as we age ), aim to supplement calcium if you are not getting sufficient amounts from your dietary sources. For males over 50, the RNI (Recommended Nutrient Intake ) is 1000mg/day, and for females over 50, the RNI is 1200mg/day.
Vitamin D is required to assist calcium absorption and protect bones and is something we don’t get enough of here in Ireland, particularly in those dark Winter months. So ideally, this is also a consideration for supplementation. For low sun exposure areas such as Ireland, we should aim in the region of 2500 IU/ day.
If you have any underlying conditions or have any queries about what dosage you should take, check with your doctor first.
Micheál Penston is the Head Coach and Nutritionist at FM Fitness & Nutrition based in Westport, Co Mayo. They specialise in helping busy men and women create the healthiest versions of themselves by educating and empowering them around all areas of their lifestyle: fitness, nutrition, recovery, and behaviours. You can grab a FREE copy of the 5 Stage Health & Fitness Kickstarter or find out more about their online and in-person coaching methods at www.fmfitnessnutrition.com or social media handles @fmfitnessnutrition