How can I nourish my mind and protect against low mood in older adulthood?
The UK has an ageing population. Around 19% (12.7 million) of the population is aged 65 years or above. Ageing leads to changes in many aspects of our lives from social changes, physical changes and psychological changes.
Ageing is associated with cognitive decline, including a decline in memory and mood regulation. Depression is one of the most prevalent disorders worldwide. Symptoms include negative thoughts, lack of motivation and changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns. In older adults, aged 65 years and over, 28% of women and 22% of men experience depression. Depression in older adults is associated with a higher risk of physical health problems and social isolation.
Whilst ageing is an inevitable process, there are things you can do to support and nourish your mind.
- Consume adequate calories to support weight maintenance.
- Eat a variety of oily fish, which is rich in omega-3s which keep our brain cells functioning correctly.
- Aim to have a portion of protein at every meal to maintain muscle health.
- Eat plenty of starchy carbohydrates to maintain energy levels.
- A variety of fruit and vegetables to gain a wide range of nutrients.
- The ability to absorb Vitamin B12 reduces as you get older, which is why it is important to supplement, especially if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
- Adequate water intake is vital to keep you hydrated.
Eating a varied and balanced diet is important for good health and wellbeing, especially in later life. Around 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition due to changes in appetite and eating habits. As always, speak to your registered healthcare professional if concerned.
What is lifestyle medicine?
The lifestyle medicine is a popular movement in healthcare that has become mainstream across the world over the last decade. It is founded on evidence-based clinical care that supports behaviour change through person-centred techniques to improve and support a good quality of life.
The effects of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory and musculoskeletal conditions and mental health diseases, that impact on millions of people across the world are a result of complex lifestyle factors. These factors come from a variety of environmental, social, physical and emotional causes that determine our own individual experiences.
Lifestyle medicine seeks to address these issues to improve the health and wellbeing of societies and individuals. It provides tools for healthcare professionals to provide person-centred care and support patients in preventing, reversed, and managing these conditions.
The 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine include:
- Healthy Eating: focusing on whole foods and reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods by teaching knowledge and skills required to follow healthy eating patterns of people’s own choosing.
- Mental Wellbeing: Providing tools and techniques to manage stress and support feelings of relaxation and compassion in one’s own wellbeing.
- Healthy Relationships: Supports people to develop and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships to increase social connection.
- Physical activity: Encourages individuals to incorporate more physical activity in their lives and reduce sedentary time.
- Minimising harmful substances by supporting people to stop smoking, reduce excessive alcohol, and avoid addictive substances and behaviours.
- Sleep: Giving people the tools to achieve good quality sleep and avoid behaviours that impair sleep quality.
Lifestyle medicine requires a multi-system approach through clinical practice and public health policies to embrace and support the wider public with support from healthcare professionals, governments and policy makers to play their part.
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