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Am I Getting Sufficient Protein as I Age?

Most people in the U.S. eat enough protein (including people who follow plant-based diets).  However, food insecurity could mean a lack of protein. Older adults might also be at risk for not getting enough protein because the need increases as people age.

VeryWell Health’s recent article entitled “How Much Protein Everyone Needs per Day” discusses some of the signs and symptoms of too little protein:

  • Increased appetite, which could lead to eating excess calories that are less nutritious.
  • Increased risk of infections from the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. People who don’t get enough protein may be more likely to get sick.
  • Increased risk of fractures: Vitamin D, calcium and protein are important in building healthy bones. People who don’t take in enough protein may be at risk of breaking a bone more easily.
  • Liver disease, where fat can accumulate in the liver and lead to scarring or poor function.
  • Loss of lean body mass: In adults, a low protein intake could cause a loss of muscle mass.
  • Problems with hair, skin and nails: Multiple issues with skin and nails can occur due to a lack of protein.
  • Swelling (edema): a chronic lack of protein could lead to fluid buildup, which starts in the feet and can extend to other body parts over time.

Sarcopenia is a condition that may occur in older people who lose too much muscle mass. Inactivity and a lack of nutrients can contribute to this problem.

The article says that examples of plant-based protein sources that contain about 7 g of protein include:

  • 2 ounces cooked beans, peas, or lentils (such as Bayo, black, brown, fava, garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, navy, pigeon, pink, pinto, or soy, or white beans, or black-eyed peas or split peas, and red, brown, and green lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 4 ounces of nuts or seeds
  • 2 ounces of tofu
  • 1 ounce cooked tempeh
  • 1 falafel patty (2.5-inch, 4 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons hummus

If you want to increase your daily protein, you can do so in many ways. The first step may be understanding which foods contain protein, especially plant-based sources. Then, eat fewer foods that are low in protein and focus on foods with a higher protein content. Here are some ideas to increase daily protein intake:

  • Focus on adding a protein source to every meal during the day.
  • Consider adding nut butter, which could be eaten with whole-grain bread, fruit, or a smoothie.
  • Add raw nuts to yogurt, salads, or oatmeal.
  • Add protein powder to a smoothie, yogurt, dairy or nondairy milk, or vegetable or fruit juice.
  • Lean jerked meat low in additives can make a high-protein snack.
  • Edamame (soybeans) are high in protein and can be eaten alone or with a salad or stir-fry dish.
  • Add tuna, salmon, sardines, or other canned fish to crackers, salads, or sandwiches.
  • Choose whole grains, such as quinoa, couscous, or wild rice.
  • Add more protein to breakfast with eggs, cheese, or non-dairy milk.
  • Try roasted chickpeas or dipping vegetables in hummus for a snack.

Reference: VeryWell Health (Sep. 21, 2023) “How Much Protein Everyone Needs per Day”

Is Coffee Good for My Blood Pressure?

A new study has found that drinking three or more cups of coffee is associated with lower blood pressure.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Arrigo F.G. Cicero, associate professor in the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences at the University of Bologna, peripheral and central blood pressure are markers of arterial stiffening and aging.

Healthline’s recent article entitled, “Hypertension: 3 Cups of Coffee a Day May Lower Blood Pressure,” noted that in seniors with high blood pressure, the large arteries tend to be stiffer, leading to higher systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) and wider pulse pressure (the difference between the top and bottom numbers).

The authors note in their report that the effects of coffee on blood pressure are still questioned, since the caffeine content of coffee can raise blood pressure in the short term. However, these effects may be offset by coffee’s antioxidants, which can help blood vessels dilate and protect cells against free radicals.

Cicero and his team examined a sample of 720 men and 783 women in the Brisighella Heart Study. This ongoing study began in 1972 and included a randomized sample representative of a rural Northern Italy town called Brisighella. They looked at the participants’ blood pressure and coffee-drinking habits and a selection of other data relevant to cardiovascular health.

The researchers found that coffee consumption was associated with lower blood pressure.

“The trend seems to be positive from two [cups of] coffee per day,” said Cicero. “So, coffee drinking should not be a priori forbidden in current coffee drinkers, if the fear is that coffee could increase BP levels.”

Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University, said that while this study is small and focuses on a specific population, its findings are consistent with prior knowledge about how coffee affects blood pressure.

“Coffee can increase blood pressure acutely after consumption, but there really has not been any consistent evidence to show that moderate amounts of coffee consumption lead to long-term issues with high blood pressure or heart disease in general,” he noted.

The American Heart Association says that people are advised to avoid drinking “too much” coffee because of its ability to raise blood pressure. It can also cause problems sleeping, heart palpitations and anxiety.

Reference: Healthline (February 12, 2023) “Hypertension: 3 Cups of Coffee a Day May Lower Blood Pressure”

Will Living by the Golden Arches Give Me a Stroke?

We all know that fast food isn’t good for your health.

However, according to recent research, simply living near a cluster of fast-food restaurants has now been linked to a higher risk of having a stroke.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled, “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk,” reports that the study found that people who are 50 and older and live near a so-called “food swamp” — where there is a high density of fast-food and junk-food options — had a 13% higher risk of stroke than people who lived in neighborhoods with more healthful options.

The study findings haven’t been published but will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2023.

In arriving at their findings, the researchers looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing study conducted at the University of Michigan that features participants from across the U.S.

This data was then matched against U.S. Department of Agriculture data about food environments to create a retail food environment index.

The index shows the ratio of unhealthy food retailers (convenience stores and fast-food restaurants) to healthy food retailers (grocery stores and farmers’ markets) in a given neighborhood.

The researchers found that most of the nearly 18,000 participants in the study lived in neighborhoods with about six times as many unhealthy food options as healthy options.

In a summary of the researchers’ findings, Dr. Dixon Yang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said, “An unhealthy diet negatively impacts blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels that increases the risk of stroke. Independent of one’s own demographics or socioeconomic status, living in a neighborhood with an abundance of poor food choices may be an important factor to consider for many people.”

Reference: Money Talks News (March 25, 2023) “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk”

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