PRACTICE GOOD MAINTENANCE
Strong exercise and nutritional habits are your best bets for optimum health
CHOOSE THE RIGHT FUEL
While nutritionists agree there’s no perfect “one size fits all” diet, most support a healthy, balanced diet that emphasizes fresh produce, healthy fats (oils from olives, nuts, seeds, avocados and coconuts) and wild-caught fish, especially salmon and other deep-water fatty fish that are high in essential omega 3 fatty acids. Other foods that are high in omega 3s include avocados, coconuts and coconut oil, nuts and seeds. ▸verything else should be kept in moderation. One model that meets those criteria is the Mediterranean diet.
But not all fruits and veggies are created equal. You’ll get the most nutritional bang for your buck with antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, strawberries, beets, spinach, broccoli and dark leafy greens. Those last (green) veggies – particularly kale, collards and spinach (in moderation) – are also high in calcium, necessary to build strong bones and fight osteoporosis and osteopenia, a less severe condition.
For women who’ve been diagnosed with one of those conditions or are at risk, Chen recommends supplemental calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K – and to not smoke. Discuss your risk, and whether to supplement (and how much) with your doctor.
Some experts believe chronic, uncontrolled inflammation is the “gateway” to many other conditions, including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and, some experts believe, Alzheimer’s. Combat it by eating an anti-inflammation diet, such as the one recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil (go to drweil.com). This approach puts the emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes, with two to six servings of fish and seafood per week and very little animal protein.
A balanced diet is fundamental to weight management; excess weight and obesity are factors in almost every serious disease and condition.
USE IT OR LOSE IT!
Keeping fit is a key factor to staying healthy as you age. Regular workouts help you control your weight and reduce the risk for the leading causes of death. ▸xercise lowers cholesterol; strengthens muscles and bones; improves circulation, mental health, mood and sleep; and boosts energy and confidence. For older adults, it helps prevent falls (see sidebar, page 39) and increases chances of living longer.
“Inactivity leads to overall physical decline,” Chen says. Working out regularly also reduces your risk for stress, he says, and that is an underlying factor in most major diseases.
“After age 30, we lose 1 to 3 percent of muscle mass every year,” adds ▸ric Pampuch, fitness program coordinator at Interfaith Older Adult Programs in Milwaukee.
This is especially problematic as people age, because that attrition is often accompanied by other losses, such as balance and flexibility, says Pampuch.
The main problem areas for people over 60 are lower back, knees, shoulders and elbows. Knees, especially, take the brunt of our weight and mobility. Pampuch, who leads seniors well into their 90s through strengthening and stretching programs, says you don’t necessarily have to change your workouts as you age – “but you must use the right form,” he stresses. “Lifting wrong... actually increases your risk for injury.”
Pampuch recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. The secret is finding a schedule you can integrate into your lifestyle.
Weightlifting or other strength training at least twice a week is essential to fight the loss of muscle mass. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes per session, ideally with a professional who’ll make sure you’re not setting yourself up for injury. Be sure to rest in between days to give the micro-tears a chance to heal.
Don’t be afraid to lift three-, five- or even eight-pound weights, he adds. When you lift, the muscles are forced to tug on the bone, which increases density. “I have a 91-year-old male client who uses five- and eight-pound weights, and a 90-year-old woman who does plenty of repetitions with three-pounders.”