Nutrition remains important throughout life. Many chronic diseases that develop late in life, such as osteoporosis, can be influenced by earlier poor habits. Insufficient exercise and calcium intake, especially during adolescence and early adulthood, can significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become brittle and crack or break easily.
But good nutrition in the later years still can help lessen the effects of diseases prevalent among older Americans or improve the quality of life in people who have such diseases. They include osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, gastrointestinal problems, and chronic undernutrition.
Studies show that a good diet in later years helps both in reducing the risk of these diseases and in managing the diseases' signs and symptoms. This contributes to a higher quality of life, enabling older people to maintain their independence by continuing to perform basic daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and eating.
Poor nutrition, on the other hand, can prolong recovery from illnesses, increase the costs and incidence of institutionalization, and lead to a poorer quality of life.