General frailty is a major cause of disability and premature death among older individuals, which is why it’s important to implement lifestyle habits to combat this age-associated decline in functioning. An exercise program is a very good place to start, and so is a nutritious diet, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Spanish and American researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires from nearly 72,000 women ages 60 or older over a 20-year period. The scientists found that healthy eating patterns, such as adhering closely to the whole-food-focused Mediterranean diet, was associated with a lower risk of frailty, including less fatigue and unwanted weight loss. The benefit  was statistically significant. Lower consumption of red and processed meat, reduced amounts of sodium intake, a higher ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat, and increased consumption of vegetables were components of the diet quality scores independently associated with less frailty.

Many elderly people will likely find it easier to practice healthy eating habits if they start earlier in life and also have social support networks in place to make it less challenging to eat a more nutritious diet.

See also: Solutions for Age-Related Decline