As one ages, medics say they face a high risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressures, depression, and stroke, among others.
They say this is so because such people have been exposed to different types of lifestyles, which, in most cases, might not have been good for their health. Smoking, bad eating habits, and excessive consumption of alcohol are some of the bad habits that expose people to the risk of developing NCDs.
Another reason that exposes aging folks to NCDs, medics say is because they tend to engage more in sedentary work, which reduces their mobility. For this reason, it becomes essential for them to practice a lifestyle that will prevent them from aging quickly as well as dying early from diseases that come as one ages.
What are the essentials?
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist and dietician at Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Kigali, says nutrition, sports and exercises are the major elements to watch as one ages.
“These have got big roles when it comes to aging. Poor nutrition, for instance, can cause one to age faster because it makes the body lose out on key body requirements,” he says.
Kamanzi notes that bone composition is one of the components that can be lost if a good diet is not maintained. To avoid this, he says consuming foods rich in calcium and magnesium prevents the loss of body density, thus preventing contracting different bone diseases.
On the other hand, Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK), says another reason one ages fast is due to not getting some of the micronutrients responsible for skin composition.
For example, he says when one does not consume fruits and vegetables that are capable of maintaining a healthy skin, they tend to age fast.
Vitamin C and A are also important when it comes to slowing aging, he says, adding that if not consumed, it can bring about wrinkles, dry and dull skin which makes one look older.
According to Venuste Muhamyankaka, the president of Rwanda Nutritionists’ Society, from the age of 50 and above, one should start paying attention of non-communicable diseases.
“There are common measures which rotate around one consuming lower energy dense foods, which have less calories. Also, consuming vitamins and minerals is essential when it comes to slowing aging,” he says.
Muhamyankaka notes that vitamins and minerals can be found in fruits and vegetables. He adds that animal-based fats are not recommended and advises people to dwell more on those found in plants.
He explains that this is because saturated fats such as those from animal sources raise one’s bad cholesterol, which puts them at risk of getting heart diseases.
However, animal proteins are recommended over those from plants.
“As one ages, their body parts also wears out, animal proteins becomes important in their diets because the body uses proteins to build and repair tissues. Also proteins build block of bones, muscles and skin,” he says.
Muhamyankaka points out that potassium found in bananas is essential for elderly people as it helps in water retention in the body.
Reducing salt intake and sweet foods can also prevent aging people from developing cardiovascular diseases.
Unlike in children where sweet food is needed, as one grows older, Celestine Karangwa, a physiotherapist at TCM Technology Clinic in Kicukiro, Kigali, says they should enhance the intake of fruits such as lemon, oranges, and grapes among others.
“This is because such foods have flavonoids which prevent depression and stress that could accelerate aging. They also reduce the risk of one developing cancer, asthma, stroke and heart diseases, which are common as one grows older,” he says.
According to Karangwa, elderly people should also avoid tobacco, excessive intake of alcohol.
Sports and exercise
Kamanzi points out that doing exercises helps in slowing aging. This is because exercise helps strengthen the bones and muscles.
He also says exercising increases one’s lifespan as being active prevents quick aging.
Additionally, Karangwa says some therapies such as sauna visits can be helpful to people who want to maintain good health as they age.
“Going for sauna once in a while also increases blood flow to the muscles, leading to more oxygen reaching the tissues. Sauna visits boost circulation of blood which is important for good cardiovascular health as one ages,” he says.
Karangwa adds that other services such as reflexology increase energy and induce a deep state of relaxation. It also stimulates the central nervous system which is essential in relieving one from stress.