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Up to 94 percent of older Australians aren’t meeting these health recommendations — are you?

Fueling your body with healthy foods as you age could help reduce your risk of bowel cancer

<p>Eating healthy foods can give you more energy but good eating habits can also reduce your risk of poor health and concerns such as cancer. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Eating healthy foods can give you more energy but good eating habits can also reduce your risk of poor health and concerns such as cancer. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Less than six percent of older Australians met the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, as per the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Ninety percent of new bowel cancer cases occur in Australians over the age of 50 years, according to Bowel Cancer Australia, a community-funded national charity
  • The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides Australian residents between the ages of 50 and 74 years with free screening tests

World Digestive Health Day is held on May 29, 2024, by the World Gastroenterology Organisation, with this year’s theme encouraging people to make their digestive health a priority. 

Less than six percent of Australians between the ages of 65 and 74 met both the fruit and vegetable recommendations for daily consumption in 2022, as per the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

For adults between the ages of 51 and 70, the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest that you should consume two servings of fruits and five to five and a half servings of vegetables each day.

Sometimes, it might seem challenging to meet the recommended dietary guidelines but it doesn’t have to be. 

If you have cereal at breakfast, try topping it with some sliced banana or strawberries or you could try a smoothie made with fresh berries. For lunch or dinner, you could try grating some extra carrots or other vegetables into pasta sauces or adding a side salad.

In addition to getting the right nutrition to look after your body as you age, getting tested for other possible issues could save your life. 

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is held each June by Bowel Cancer Australia to raise awareness about the dangers of bowel cancer. 

Approximately 103 Australians die each week from bowel cancer, according to Bowel Cancer Australia, an organisation that says it’s ‘one of the most treatable types of cancer when detected early.’ 

To address this, the Australian Government runs the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program which provides free bowel cancer screening tests for Australians between the ages of 50 and 74 years. These are sent in the mail to every Australian resident.

The average age for bowel cancer diagnosis is 72 years in females and 69 years in males, according to Cancer Council Victoria.

However, not everyone who falls in this age range should simply take the test. If you are concerned about your health, stools or if you have a family history of bowel cancer, discuss the testing options with your doctor.

Almost 90 percent of newly diagnosed bowel cancer cases are in people over the age of 50, as per information available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website.

Lee Holmes, a clinical nutritionist and gut health specialist, explained that while talking about bowel movements and digestion might seem uncomfortable, it’s important to break the stigma and support each other.

“While it’s incredibly positive to see how much Aussies are already in tune with the important role the gut plays to our overall health, encouraging open conversations around our digestive systems and our nutrition is crucial in ensuring positive long-term health outcomes. We need to flush away the stigma,” she said.

As one of the most common cancers in Australia, getting tested for bowel cancer every two years is recommended. Once you have your testing kit, you can watch a video online about how to complete it. 

Some symptoms of bowel cancer can include weight loss, unexplained fatigue, abdominal pain, blood in the stools or a change in bowel movements.

Cancer Research UK has identified some risk factors for bowel cancer. These can include:

  • eating lots of red and processed meat;
  • not being physically active;
  • being overweight or obese;
  • not consuming enough fibre.

Getting enough fibre is also important for good gut health generally. To learn more about the value of incorporating fibre into your diet, read this article: The essential nutrient for healthy ageing.

Ms Holmes shared other nutritionist knowledge recently to help Australians improve their digestive systems.

“[…] The best way to manage our gut health is through nutrition and ensuring we are consuming enough fibre-rich food such as green veggies, whole grains and pulses,” she said.


What do you do to look after your gut health?

Let the team at Talking Aged Care know on social media. 

For more information and news in the aged care industry, subscribe to our free newsletter. 

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