Death in middle life is usually due to the giving out of various vital parts of the body when subjected to strain. Nervous collapse, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, apoplexy, heart failure and kidney disease are some of the types of functional diseases that are likely to set in at this time.
To meet this period successfully, certain precautions need to be observed.
1) Cut down on the amount of food eaten sufficiently to combat the tendency to put on weight.
2) Be very moderate in the use of meats, salts and condiments; take plenty of water.
3) Get plenty of fresh air and exercise, but avoid strenuous exertions which overfatigue and place undue strain on the heart.
4) Take more recreation and rest.
5) Cultivate mental hygiene; avoid nervous strain.
Although the same nutritive essentials—fuel, protein, mineral salts and vitamins—are required to nourish the body from the cradle to the grave, it should be emphasized that the amounts needed are less in the latter part of life, especially after seventy, than in the more active adult years.
There is no further need of tissue-building materials for growth, and the amount of these substances for tissue maintenance or repair is at a minimum. For this reason, the protein requirement in old age is reduced, while at the same time an excess of protein is more difficult for the body to handle than ever before.
The calorie requirement is also materially reduced for two reasons:
1) Less energy is used in muscular activity
2) Basal metabolism is lowered
It is far easier and wiser to cut down moderately on one’s fuel intake and take more exercise when the tendency to put on weight first manifests itself, than to try to take off excess weight by radical dieting or excessive exercising later on. This advice should not be taken to support excessive reduction in the amount of fuel foods with the desire of attaining underweight, which is fully as undesirable as overweight.
Beyond a slight reduction in the amount of fuel foods and some care to keep down the consumption of meats and other protein-rich foods, no special modification of the diet is needed during this period.
What has been recommended as the best diet for maintaining the body in health and vigor during younger years continues to be “optimum diet” in later years—namely, a diet the basis of which is milk, cereal products, fruits and vegetables, with moderate amounts of protein foods, fats and sugar. The importance of milk, whole grains, eggs and green vegetables as protective foods still holds good.