Despite the fact that many adults worldwide are living longer, they may not always be doing so in a healthier way. They are unable to enjoy their complete lives as a result. This chart of less-than-optimal health is caused by a number of circumstances. Nutrition, or lack thereof, is one of the most important and evident variables. After all, eating provides energy to all of the body’s cells and helps maintain muscular power.
It seems simple enough to optimise your diet in order to improve your health. Make sure your meals are balanced by using a colourful plate that includes all the necessary dietary groups. But an unexpected fact is that adult malnutrition has only recently come to light as a frequently unrecognised health issue affecting many individuals.
A common misconception is that malnutrition means a person isn’t getting enough calories. But malnutrition can be more than a deficiency in nutrient intake: it can also refer to nutrient excesses or vitamin or mineral imbalances.
“Today, a lot of people in India come under the category of being ‘skinny fat’ – a term that refers to having a relatively high percentage of body fat and a low amount of muscle mass. It occurs when the body doesn’t get the appropriate amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that it needs, to function,” says Prof. Dr. Salil Bendre, Head, Pulmonary Medicine, Nanavati Max SuperSpeciality Hospital.
As we become older, muscle mass becomes more crucial for maintaining our general immune defence as well as bodily strength and mobility. However, studies have indicated that adults might begin to lose up to 8% of their muscle mass per decade from the age of 40. That rate might double after the age of 70. This makes it more clear why building muscle is important and why nutrition must come first.
How to avoid muscle loss & protect muscle health
Safeguarding muscle mass can be done with a few simple strategies — mainly focusing on physical activity and proper nutrition. This is especially important as we age.
To preserve muscles:
Engage in regular exercise & test your muscle age: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week and include resistance training to also help maintain muscles and strength. You can test your locomotive ability and find out how good your muscle strength is & know what to do earlier to help prevent and delay muscle loss & overall strength. The good news is that grip strength is an easy way to assess your overall muscular strength – just by squeezing an orange or noticing the firmness of your handshake you can determine your muscle strength. A chair challenge test is also an easy way to test your muscle strength. The time taken to do 5 sit ups on a chair of approx. height of 43cm [1.4ft] in height can tell you about your muscle age.
Consume enough micronutrients: Not only reduced intake of proteins but also micronutrients like selenium, carotenoid, vitamin C, E, calcium, vitamin D etc have been associated with lower muscle strength. Currently, 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 don’t get enough protein in their diet, that is problematic because protein is a nutrient that supports strong muscles and helps keep cells healthy, fuelled and working at their best, which is important to keeping energy levels up. To amp up protein intake further, add in protein snacks, like one before bed or supplement your diet with nutrition supplements, if needed.
Follow a nutrition-forward diet: Choose a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, healthy fats and key vitamins and minerals like calcium and Vitamin D. The key is to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups. Developing healthy eating patterns not only give you energy, they can also help prevent obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
(Prof. Dr. Salil Bendre, Head, Pulmonary Medicine)