According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.7% of adults aged 50 or older reported current depression while 15.7% reported a lifetime depression diagnosis. Symptoms related to mental health issues in older adults increase with age, thus mental health issues should not be considered a normal part of aging. The CDC further reports in 80% of mental health cases, there is a treatable condition.
An alternative approach towards improving mental health in older adults is diet. Studies have found that there is a connection between a healthy diet and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Food that is good for the body promotes brain health. Seniors should focus on nutrient-dense foods to prevent or manage mental health disorders. For instance, Zinc in low levels can result in depression while Omega 3 may help improve thinking, memory, and mood. It has been found that some psychiatric illnesses caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency include depression, agitation, irritability, psychosis, and obsessive symptoms. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia contributes to depression.
Therefore, older adults should focus on a nutrient-dense diet. They should focus on eating whole grains, colorful vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, seafood, and fruits. Such foods boost the body’s overall health, including the brain.
Most older adults have weakened immune systems due to aging and have one or more health conditions. As a result, they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to live quality and wholesome lives. By avoiding processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats that can lead to inflammation throughout the brain and body, older adults could minimize or suppress any risks related to mental health disorders. A healthy diet will introduce good gut bacteria for a healthy gut biome which decreases inflammation. Inflammations affect both mood and cognitive function.
Older adults should practice mindful eating and limit emotional eating. By paying attention to how they feel when they eat, what they eat, and how much they eat, it becomes easier for them to eat well-balanced meals and snacks. For older adults who are unable to practice mindful eating, a professional caregiver can step in to help with meal planning and preparation. In addition to this, keeping a food diary will also help older adults understand what foods affect their mood, sleep, and overall wellbeing.
Although dietary changes should not be used to substitute ongoing treatment for mental health issues, it is important to note that medicine works better in the body of a healthy individual than an unhealthy one. Older adults should also consult their doctor on what they should eat and what they should avoid for better body and brain health.
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