#HEALTH: Balanced nutrition for healthy ageing

WHILE getting older brings wisdom, maturity and experience, it can also increase the risk of health problems. Further concerns also arise when a significant portion of a population is ageing. This is a predicament Malaysia is facing, as it is fast becoming an ageing nation.

Fifteen per cent of Malaysia's population will be more than 60 years old by 2040.

Up to 2022, around 7.3 per cent of the population was aged above 65. So, it's important to start thinking about healthy ageing early, to ensure wellbeing and comfort throughout one's golden years.

The role of nutrition is pivotal in the journey towards wellbeing. Malnutrition is a particular concern for seniors, which can subsequently lead to weakened bones, susceptibility to infections and slower recovery.

Optimal nutrition not only helps combat these challenges, but also manages the impact of chronic conditions.

The 2020 Herbalife Nutrition APAC Healthy Ageing Survey reports that 44 per cent of Malaysians are confident in their ability to age healthily, while 88 per cent have taken steps to achieve this aspiration.

This is indeed encouraging, and this momentum must be built on for more Malaysians to adopt better nutritional habits.


The body requires different nutrients to optimally function. This should be reflected in our dietary intake by using the quarter-quarter-half concept and combining different food groups to offer a balance of nutrients.

A variety of nutrient-rich choices can help infuse your diet with essential fibre, vital vitamins and potent antioxidants, building a defence against age-related concerns.

Research about ageing suggests that the damage our cells and tissues experience from oxygen-derived free radicals builds up over time, contributing to the ageing process. To help mitigate this, antioxidants are believed to reduce free radical damage, thereby potentially reducing the rate of ageing.

Therefore, it is important to consume foods rich in antioxidants. A strong antioxidant is alpha-lipoic acid, which is naturally found in foods we eat and in our bodies.

Research has shown that alpha-lipoic acid has the potential to counteract the development of age-related diseases by reducing free radical damage to our cells and may also have positive effects on cardiovascular function and managing metabolic syndrome.

As we age, our bodies' nutritional requirements also change. Hence, it is vital to adopt nutritional habits that best suit our evolving dietary needs.

We tend to become relatively less active as we get older and our metabolism slows down, meaning we require fewer calories. As such, we should reduce high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients, such as deep-fried foods and sweetened beverages.

Prioritise nutrient-dense foods to fuel your body and manage sodium intake and reduce salt when cooking.

Excessive consumption of high-sodium foods such as processed meats, street foods and sauces can increase the risk of hypertension and other non-communicable diseases.

As we age, our thirst levels drop and our body composition changes. Stay hydrated by aiming for eight glasses of water daily.

Maintain a healthy body weight through regular physical activity. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise preserves daily functioning and wellbeing.

Ageing is unavoidable and everyone will be subjected to the same process. As Malaysia moves towards becoming an ageing population, it is important that we take the initiative as individuals to secure our future health. Regardless of your age, it is important to work towards healthy ageing by starting early. By making changes in our productive years, we can work towards a healthy future.

*The writer is a nutritionist and honorary treasurer of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

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