We all know the importance of eating healthy, exercising and watching our weight but you may be surprised to learn how aging makes it all more challenging.
Starting at 30, we lose approximately 3% to 8% of our muscle mass each decade which triggers a gradual slowdown in our metabolism.
The loss of muscle reduces the number of calories we need to maintain a healthy weight and, if we continue to eat the same, without increasing physical activity, our bodies begin storing fat.
As a result, we may gradually gain a pound or two each year which really adds up over the next two decades.
By age 50 we may find ourselves considerably overweight or, worse, obese.
This puts us at a greater risk to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and Type-2 diabetes as we enter our golden years.
However, the solution is not as simple as eating fewer calories because our bodies continue to need the same amount of nutrients as we age.
Once we hit our 50th birthday, we’re faced with another reality – our ability to absorb nutrients begins to fade due to a decrease in the stomach acids required to properly break down food.
This can lead to deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, and other vital nutrients which further weakens our bodies and diminishes our overall health.
Though the challenges caused by aging may seem daunting we can be proactive in making the changes needed to stay healthy as we age.
How To Determine Your Healthy Weight
Finding the magic number for a healthy weight can be tricky as we get older.
We’ve all heard about measuring our Body Mass Index (BMI) but this can be misleading as we age.
Since aging causes us to lose muscle mass, BMI does not accurately gauge body fat in older people.
Measuring your waistline is a better way to determine if your body is storing too much fat.
For a general rule of thumb: a man’s waist should be less than 40 inches and a woman’s waistline should be less than 35 inches.
If you fall outside of these ranges it indicates your body is storing too much metabolically active fat that puts your health at risk.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Nutrient-dense foods pack a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in a smaller amount of calories than processed foods.
This provides the ideal solution for lowering caloric intake while boosting the amount of nutrients we need as we age.
Fruits and vegetables with the most vibrant colors are a high source of vitamins and anti-oxidants:
- Bright green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peppers and Brussels sprouts
- Tomatoes, red cabbage, beets, carrots and sweet potatoes
- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, oranges and grapefruits
Choose the leanest cuts of beef, pork, skinless chicken and dine on fish at least once or twice a week.
For example, wild salmon is packed with nutrients like Omega-3s, magnesium, potassium, selenium and all the B-vitamins.
Switch to whole grain breads, brown rice and opt for fat-free milk, cheeses and yogurt.
Instead of reaching for a sugary treat, munch on walnuts or sunflower seeds.
Since too much of a good thing can still be too much, portion control is also important.
Avoid eating in front of the TV or computer because you may not notice how much food you’re consuming.
Exercising After Age 50
As we approach age 50 our bodies don’t respond to exercise the way it did when we were younger.
The answer is not exercising less but rather exercising smarter.
A new study by the Mayo Clinic reveals High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has a number of benefits for older adults.
HIIT is a fast-paced routine that alternates between a short burst of intense aerobic exercise, like cycling or sprinting at full speed, followed by a brief lower-intensity period.
Experts recommend repeating the pattern for 15 to 20 minutes though some say half as long is still beneficial for those 50 and over.
Staying flexible is also important as we age – incorporate a full-body stretch that works all major muscle groups at least two or three times a week.
Always speak with your doctor, and consider meeting with a fitness expert, to determine the best workout routine for you.
Staying Healthy As We Age Includes Keeping A Positive Outlook
Keeping a positive state of mind also boosts our health as we age.
Don’t let aches and pains keep you from spending time with friends or making new friends.
Do things you enjoy – a hobby, a walk in nature, gardening, or volunteering for a cause close to your heart.
It’s also important to improve the way you think about the aging process.
As the author, Betty Friedan, once said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”