Mobility is the joy of moving freely and easily. Healthy muscles, bones and joints allow us to perform all types of movements – from everyday tasks to enjoying our favourite hobbies, and it’s a key aspect of healthy ageing.
It’s something we often take for granted and only become aware of when we start to feel our bodies aren’t working as well as they used to – that niggling feeling in the joints or the slight stiffness first thing in the morning for instance.
As we age, muscles, bones and joints change in ways that can affect mobility. Bones lose density, there’s a reduction in muscle mass and strength and cartilage in the joints becomes thinner.
The good news is that we can take positive action to help prevent the ageing process affecting how we live our lives. Daily physical activity combined with weight management and a healthy balanced diet that includes the appropriate levels of protein, vitamin D and C and calcium supports our muscle, bone and joint health and helps keep us moving.
We need calcium from our diet to give our bones structure and strength. Calcium in the bones acts a bit like a reservoir where the body is constantly withdrawing and depositing calcium. Bone health is important at any age, but the reduction in bone density that is common in older age makes bones weaker, which in turn may lead to increased risk of fractures. Staying active and making sure we include minerals like calcium and vitamin D in our diet can help maintain good bone health.
Calcium content in food varies significantly, so it´s important to aim to eat ‘calcium-rich’ foods:
With ageing, cartilage lining the joints becomes thinner, the fluid that lubricates them (called synovial fluid) reduces and ligaments and tendons also become less flexible. As a result, the joints are less able to slide as smoothly over one another, which can cause discomfort and stiffness.
Loss of muscle mass can begin from age 30 but it becomes more prominent from the age of 50 onwards. After the age of 50, unless we act to prevent it, we may lose 1 percent of muscle mass each year and with it, muscle strength.[i] It’s important to maintain muscle mass because it’s what helps keep us strong and keeps us moving – and that’s what helps contribute to living a full and active life.
The amount of regular physical activity people do throughout our lives influences the rate of muscle loss. Combining adequate dietary protein spread over the day with resistance exercise training using all the major muscle groups helps maintain muscle mass.
After water, protein is the main component of cells and is essential to life. Protein has an important role in building and repairing the major structural components of all tissues in the body and eating protein every day contributes to healthy muscle mass.
It’s common for people to eat less as they age, and there can be a number of reasons this can happen. Whether it’s due to low interest in cooking, a lack of appetite or changes to smell and taste, people can miss out on getting the nutrients they need – despite their nutritional needs often being increased.
Getting adequate amounts of protein can be challenging for many older adults. Increasing protein has been shown to be of benefit though, with studies showing a higher intake of protein helping to reduce muscle loss associated with ageing[ii] [iii]and therefore helping to maintain muscle strength and function.
Protein is a complex structure, made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids linked together. Some of these amino acids are ‘essential’, meaning they are crucial for life and cannot be produced by the human body – therefore you need to obtain them from your diet.
As our body is not able to store amino acids in the way it can with carbohydrates and fats, we need to make sure we obtain it daily through what we eat. This can include animal sources, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – these contain the full range of essential amino acids. Other sources of protein include nuts, grains, legumes and tofu.
Protein-containing nutritional supplements are useful if you struggle to meet your protein intake through food alone. A nutritionally complete supplement such as Sustagen® Hospital Formula Active contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals. Consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet, it can help ensure you obtain the level of nutrients you need for health, including plenty of protein to support healthy muscles and bones so your body can keep up with your active lifestyle!
Nutritional supplements can only be of assistance where dietary intake is inadequate. Please seek advice on your individual dietary needs from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian or your healthcare professional. Sustagen® Hospital Formula is a formulated meal replacement and cannot be used as a total diet replacement. Consume as part of a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
[i] Thomas DR. Loss of skeletal muscle mass in ageing: Examining the relationship of starvation, sarcopenia and cachexia. Clin Nutr. 2007;26,389–399.
[ii] Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2010; 58:2129-2134
[iii] Houston DK, Nicklas BJ, Ding J, et al. Dietary protein intake is associated with lean mass change in older, community-dwelling adults: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 87: 150-155.