Health Supplements for Senility
Senility is characterized by a state of physical and mental decline attributed to old age. It is not a disease, but to some, it is an inevitable, progressive stage in life that is associated with deteriorating memory and other mental functions. Dementia is often regarded as a disease, although it is not – and like senility, it consists of a group of symptoms that relate to declining mental function.
Senility and Dementia
The word “senility” is hardly used anymore in medical language, and dementia is the more commonly accepted term to describe mental deterioration. Although dementia is often associated with aging, some forms of dementia may be due to other causes not related to advancing age. Furthermore, dementia pertains only to the mental abilities, while senility also includes physical deterioration of function.
Studies show that the number of elderly people (ages 65 and above) in America will double in the next 25 years due to aging baby boomers and longer life spans. It is estimated that by 2030, 20% of the American population will be composed of older adults. However, studies also show that two out of three elderly Americans have multiple chronic diseases, and that their treatment accounts for about two-thirds of the country’s health care cost.
While heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death in the elderly population, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, now ranks sixth as the leading cause of death in the US. People who are diagnosed with the disease become progressively disabled, and since there is still no cure for the disease, many patients die after a few years (the average is eight years) from the onset of symptoms.
While aging is a progressive process that cannot be stopped, there are many ways people can stay healthy into their 80s (or beyond). Aside from aging, genetic and hereditary factors may influence your health, but other factors that can affect your well-being are still under your control. These consist of your lifestyle practices, which you can modify to improve your chances of staying healthy and avoiding chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, stroke or dementia. Healthy aging also delays physical and mental deterioration, which are associated with senility, and prevents premature death due to disease.
One study, conducted by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine showed how healthy habits, consisting of good eating habits, exercise and good sleep can delay aging, as manifested in the chromosomes found in the cells. The study involved more than 200 postmenopausal women, and it was found that those who led healthy lifestyles were less likely to have changes in their chromosomes that were characteristic of aging cells, even when they experienced stress.
Other studies show that decline in mental function can be prevented by:
- not smoking
- controlling blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes
- lowering homocysteine (an amino acid) levels with increased intake of folic acid, B12, and B6
- lowering blood cholesterol levels
- controlling blood pressure levels
- reducing inflammation
- using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- engaging in intellectually stimulating activities like doing crossword puzzles, playing chess, playing a musical instrument, and having social interactions.
Healthy Anti-Aging Tips
Experts recommend four basic steps to stay healthy as one gets older:
- Keep body and mind active.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get regular medical checkups.
- Avoid accidents.
To stay active, one must spend around 150 minutes a week (this may be done ten minutes at a time) doing moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, which include walking, raking leaves, swimming, or bicycling. One must also strengthen the muscles by doing strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Being active and strengthening the muscles can also help improve balance and coordination, thus preventing accidents, such as falls, which are the most common cause of deaths in seniors that is not related to chronic illness.
Eating healthy means choosing a lot of fruits and vegetables of different colors, eating whole grain products, beans, seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and nuts, drinking low-fat/fat-free milk, and avoiding cholesterol, trans fats, saturated fats, added sugar, and salt.
Smokers are strongly advised to quit smoking.
Regular check-ups and screening tests are recommended for people who are in their 60s, because many chronic conditions develop in elderly individuals, most of which can be treated or controlled.
Nutrition for Seniors
Good nutrition may be a problem for some elderly individuals. Buying and preparing healthy foods may not always be easy, especially if they live alone or if they are not physically able to do these tasks. They may also have some health problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure that make it difficult for them to balance their meals. Others may have a problem chewing their food because of poorly fitting dentures. For these reasons, some are advised to take health supplements to ensure that they do not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Common nutritional deficiencies among elderly individuals include calcium and vitamin D deficiency, which increase their risk of osteoporosis (weak bones), and iron deficiency anemia.
Health experts often recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet to maintain good health, but in some cases, they may also recommend supplementing a senior’s diet with:
- Vitamin B12, to maintain healthy nerve function, improve memory and prevent anemia. Many seniors are unable to absorb vitamin B12 from food in their intestines, and eating fortified foods such as cereals can help increase their vitamin B12 intake.
- Vitamin B6, which is important for forming red blood cells and preventing anemia.
- Calcium, to keep their bones strong, and prevent bone loss, which could lead to fractures.
- Vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and support immune system function.
- Iron, which is important for postmenopausal women who are using hormone replacement therapy.
- To prevent dementia, supplements such as gingko biloba and omega-3 fatty acids may be taken, but more studies are needed to prove their effectiveness.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
CDC. Aging Trends.
Medline Plus. Healthy Habits May Slow Cellular Signs of Aging, Study Finds.
Healthfinder. Protect Your Health As You Grow Older
Medlineplus. Nutrition for Seniors.
Agingcare. Dietary Supplements for the Elderly: More is Not Always Better.