Aging Well

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Tips for Good Digestive Health as You Age

A person can develop digestive problems at any age but it is more likely to occur as you get older. Approximately 40% of all older adults have one or more digestive system disorders every year, mainly caused by changes that happen in the digestive tract with age. Common digestive problems that occur as a person ages include things such as constipation, diverticular disease, ulcers and stomach bleeding, swallowing problems, colon polyps, and heartburn.

Is there anything that can be done to avoid these common digestive problems?

            Prevention is the best medicine for health problems and the same is true for keeping your digestion system working smoothly. Here are some tips for protecting your digestive health and overall well-being.

  • Check your meds – Many medications used to manage chronic conditions, like arthritis and high blood pressure can have digestive-tract side effects.
  • Stay active – Regular physical activity can help avoid constipation, in addition to its overall health benefit.  This is important because many older adults become less active due to advanced age or medical issues.
  • Eat more fiber – The digestive tract slows down, just like other bodily functions, due to age, so it is essential to increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – Drinking water and other fluids, such as orange juice with pulp, can keep you hydrated and help ease constipation.  Older adults who take diuretics are at increased risk for dehydration.
  • Manage your weight – Many age-related health problems can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, which can also reduce the number of medications you need to take.  Medications can cause digestive side effects.  It is also important to limit the fat in your diet, choose healthy portions and select whole foods instead of processed foods to help you manage your weight.
  • Get regular health screenings – Talk to your doctor about any concerning symptoms you are having and ask about regular screenings. The risk of developing colon polyps increases after age 50, which makes getting regular screenings very important.

            For more information on this topic, go to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/digestive-health-aging?print=true

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