In recent months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced the familiar food pyramid model with a new model designed to promote better food choices, just in time for “Fruits and Veggies — More Matters” Month. The month of September is dedicated to highlighting the benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables, and is a great time to encourage your Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO patients to focus on making healthy food choices. It’s also another good reason to help them commit to regular physical activity. According to Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, “Good diet and exercise go hand in hand to help maintain optimal physical and mental functioning. They really cannot be separated.”
When it comes to the older adult population, proper nutrition is paramount. “Good nutrition is particularly important for the aging population for several reasons,” explains Johnston. “First, aging is often associated with greater chronic disease frequency, which can create a greater need for nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. Inflammation is a common consequence of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes — all conditions which are more common in aging populations.”
The need for proper nutrition in older adults doesn’t stop with chronic diseases. Johnston adds, “The ability to assimilate nutrients in foods declines with age, a reflection of an aging stomach and intestinal tract. That is why the recommended intake for some nutrients increases in the elderly [to compensate for poor absorption].” Add to the list the fact that many commonly used medications, such as antacids, can interfere with nutrient absorption and can adversely impact metabolic functions.
Encourage your patients to fill half their plate with more fruits and vegetables and share these helpful tips with them:
Eat brightly colored fruits (reds, greens, purples) and vegetables daily. Avoid juice; eat the whole fruit instead.
Choose high-fiber foods, particularly vegetables (e.g., leafy greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and legumes).
Eat lean sources of protein at each meal (e.g., egg substitutes, skim milk, low-fat yogurt, chicken, fish).
Minimize grains (unless physically active every day) and choose mainly whole grains.
SilverSneakers® can help
It’s never too late to adopt healthy eating habits and, of course, the same goes for engaging in regular physical activity. Adopting an active lifestyle with the Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program is a great way for Keystone 65 HMO Preferred and Personal Choice 65SM PPO members to get moving — all while having fun and making friends! Remind them to exercise regularly and to eat nutritious fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight, reduce their risk of certain diseases, and get the vitamins and minerals they need to live an active and healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Note: SilverSneakers is offered to Keystone 65 Preferred HMO and Personal Choice 65 PPO members at no cost. To enroll in the program, members can simply bring their health plan ID card to any participating SilverSneakers location. For a complete list of locations, members can visit the SilverSneakers website at www.silversneakers.com or call 1-888-423-4632.