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Wednesday, March 26, 2003 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

AoA Announces Practical Nutrition Recommendations For Older Americans During National Nutrition Month

HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell today announced practical nutrition recommendations to help promote health and prevent disease among older Americans in the United States at the Camp Springs Senior Center in Camp Springs, Maryland.

“Since this is National Nutrition Month, we are highlighting steps older Americans can take to reduce their risks for major chronic disease conditions by improving their diets,” says Assistant Secretary Carbonell. “Through Secretary Tommy G. Thompson’s prevention initiative, Steps to a HealthierUS, we are helping to ensure older Americans know about the very simple things they can do to prevent illness: eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke and increase physical activity.”

Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoporosis are diseases that disproportionately affect older persons. Diabetes is of particular concern because it is on the rise among all age groups and is most prevalent in older age groups. In the years 1980 - 1999, its prevalence was 13 times greater for people aged 65-74 than for people less than 45 years of age.

Examples of ways to promote health and prevent disease during National Nutrition Month include:

  • Aiming for a healthy weight by controlling portion sizes
    and being physically active every day.
  • Eating a wide variety of foods.
  • Eating more high fiber foods made from whole grains, beans, and nuts.
  • Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Choosing a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Choosing and prepare foods with less salt.
  • Eating calcium-rich foods like low-fat milk and cheese for strong bones.
  • Drinking plenty of beverages and stay hydrated.

Assistant Secretary Carbonell continued, “As Secretary Thompson emphasizes through Steps to a HealthierUS, the good news is that small changes in diet and other lifestyle behaviors can make a big difference in helping people live longer and more healthfully. Start now by making one or two changes during National Nutrition Month. Making healthy lifestyle changes can also help older Americans prolong their independence by maintaining hearing and vision, physical strength, and mobility.”

The Administration on Aging (AoA) developed practical recommendations based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2000. AoA added a recommendation “to drink plenty of beverages to stay hydrated” because it is an issue of particular concern among older Americans.

Persons aged 65 and older eat better quality diets than younger age groups based on the most recent Healthy Eating Index Scores developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Healthy Eating Index is comprised of 10 components derived from the U.S.D.A. Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Still, a majority of older persons reported diets that needed improvement based on data from the Federal Government’s 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Scores were lowest for servings of fruit and milk products among adults aged 65+.

“I am taking personal responsibility for improving my diet this month by beginning to drink a glass of low-fat milk with dinner and eating a piece of fruit as a snack,” said Assistant Secretary Carbonell.

The AoA funded Older American Act (OAA) Nutrition Program serves meals to approximately three million older persons at approximately 11,000 Senior Centers across the country. Meals are available at congregate meal sites and are delivered to homes. The OAA Nutrition Program also provides a range of related services including nutrition screening, assessment, education and counseling.