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Are you over 60 years of age?

If you are, you may be deficient in VITAMINS and MINERALS, especially the B VITAMINS and HYDROCHLORIC ACID.

Myth No 1. Many of us view the elderly as doddering old creatures. In reality, senility only strikes a very small proportion, and even then, some age-related reduction in mental functioning can be prevented or even reversed.

Scientists have discovered that vitamin deficiencies account for many of the symptoms of senility. 

For example, low folate levels in the elderly can cause forgetfulness, irritability and possibly depression. Vitamin B6, a nutrient required to make many neurotransmitters, may lead to peripheral neuropathy (a disorder of the nervous system where the limbs feel numb or tingle) if deficient. The nutrient that ensures nerves are protected with a myelin sheath, vitamin B12, can be responsible for delusions and mood disturbances when levels fall below normal.

Most elderly people are deficient in their diet. Researchers have found that seemingly healthy, elderly subjects can still exhibit low vitamin levels.

Myth No 2: Old age means losing all my teeth.
If you're not worried about losing your mind when you're old, you might fret about losing your teeth. Part of the problem, said investigators, was that education and dental care for the elderly are overlooked by both dentists and the patients themselves.

Proper dental hygiene and regular cleanings by the dentist are usually enough to stave off infection. Another simple and inexpensive way of preventing or at least halting the progression of periodontal disease is to store and replace your toothbrush properly. Although most of us are in the habit of keeping our toothbrush in the bathroom, this is not recommended. Bathrooms are the most contaminated room in the house. Healthy people should replace their toothbrushes every two weeks; those with a systemic or oral illness more often. Everyone should use a new toothbrush when they get sick, when they feel better and again when they completely recover.

Finally, an important aspect of both dental and general health is immunity. Cigarette smoking is the worst thing you can do. Other lifestyle behaviours that theoretically could do the same include poor eating habits, stress and other immune depressors.

Myth No 3: The older I get, the sicker I'll get.
Old age doesn't have to mean feeling sick and tired. An important part of staying well into the older years is keeping your immune system operating at its peak.

By taking the right nutrients, exercise and other measures, you can prevent many age-related diseases with specific health precautions. For example, there is evidence that smoking and low plasma levels of vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene contribute to cataracts (6). Dr. Dean Ornish showed that a one year program of stress management, moderate exercise, no smoking and a low-fat vegetarian diet may reverse the development of coronary atherosclerosis. Left untreated, atherosclerotic plagues usually continue to grow (7).

Many other chronic diseases can also be prevented or treated with lifestyle changes. Calcium and magnesium supplementation helps some individuals with hypertension. Most are helped by high potassium foods (fruits and vegetables), salt restriction and weight maintenance. Keeping blood pressure under control can also decrease the risk of a stroke.

Adult-onset diabetes is usually treated best with dietary measures such as reducing simple sugars, consuming a lot of fiber and taking chromium supplements (8). It's estimated that half of all types of cancer are linked to diet. This explains why less fat, lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber, vitamins A, B6, C and E and zinc and selenium all appear to play a role in cancer prevention (9).

Myth No 4: Lifestyle changes won't help me when I get old.
It's a mistaken notion that at a certain age, you reach the lifestyle modification point of no return. If you've used this as an excuse to cling to old, comfortable, unhealthy habits, it's time to let go. Of course, it's always best to live as healthy as possible as young as possible. But for those in their golden years, there's still plenty of hope.

Two of the most difficult habits to break, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, can, when discarded, yield great health results.

Frailty in the older person can't be totally blamed on aging. At least some weakness occurs because of physical inactivity. A regular exercise program not only decreases the risk of chronic illness, but can help prevent early death. Those who begin exercising later in life can slow or even reverse organ deterioration.

When elderly individuals exercise, they reap a number of health rewards. Aside from fighting chronic diseases, their heart is stronger, muscles are more fit and flexible, mood is enhanced, and falls and fractures are less frequent. While exercise alone probably doesn't significantly extend life beyond 80 years old, it can improve your quality of life (12,13).

Myth No 5: As long as I maintain the eating habits I had when I was younger, I'll stay healthy.
Perhaps one of the biggest fallacies of good health is that nutritional needs don't change with age. Just as children and teens have different dietary requirements than adults, so do the elderly differ in their needs from younger individuals.

A number of factors cause poor dietary intake. Chronic diseases, both physical and mental, can cause nutritional problems. Various medications can impair nutrient availability or discourage eating due to loss of appetite. If you wear ill-fitting dentures, pain can prevent you from eating. Elderly who live alone may feel isolated and uninterested in eating.

But even if you are older and healthy, the very process of aging alters your metabolism and physiology. Stomach acid declines, thus affecting some nutrient absorption. Many older people feel full quicker because of an increased sensitivity to the satiety peptide, cholecystokinin octapeptide. Aging also dampens the body's appetite center, and consequently eating. Finally, it's suspected that an older palate doesn't detect those tastes that drive us to the dinner table: salt and sweet (14).

Aging is inevitable. Poor health is not. Regular exercise, nutritious eating (appropriate for your age) and a lucky roll of the genetic dice can help you to age with grace and good health.

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