Eager to slow the physical changes of aging? Want to feel as young as you are? Rather than wait until you notice signs of aging, a fitness routine- healthful eating and regular physical activity- can help slow or reverse "biomarkers," or changes, that come with getting older.
- Your muscle mass and strength: Stamina, ease of movement, ability to handle heavy objects, feeling energetic and even physical appearance depend on muscle strength and flexibility. Yet, with age, muscle size and strength decrease naturally; for each decade of adult life, people lose about six to seven pounds of muscle. That rate hastens after age forty-five. Regular physical activity helps you maintain muscle size, strength, and other qualities of youth.
- The rate your body uses energy: The rate your body uses energy declines with age: about 2 percent for every decade. Body composition, along with hormone changes, is part of the reason. You can't fool Mother Nature entirely. But if you're physically active and keep your muscle mass, your body burns energy a little faster; muscle burns more energy than body fat.
- Your percentage of body fat: With age, body fat gradually replaces muscle- even if your eating and activity patterns stay the same. Besides losing that firm, muscular shape of youth, any extra body fat increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and breathing problems. "Midriff bulge" is a sure sign that you're probably not twenty-five anymore! The bottom line: try to keep lean.
- Your bone density: Healthy bones let you enjoy physical activity as you age with less risk of fractures. Yet bone loss is a natural part of aging. If you keep your bones strong, you may avoid a "dowager's hump," which often appears with osteoporosis.
- Your cholesterol/HDL levels: Age is one reason why total and LDL cholesterol rise. As a heart-healthy strategy, losing weight, regular physical activity, and smart eating can help bring down your total and your LDL blood cholesterol levels, lower your triglycerides, and raise your "good" HDL blood cholesterol levels.
- Your blood sugar tolerance: With age, blood sugar levels may rise for several reasons. In part, your body may not produce as much insulin with age. Physical activity, along with keeping a healthy weight, can help keep blood sugar levels within normal range and help you avoid type 2 diabetes.
- Your body's "thermostat": Fluids are your body's natural cooling system. As you get older, your sense of thirst may diminish, putting you at greater risk for dehydration. Still, your body needs at least 9 to 121?2 cups of fluid daily from water, juice, milk, other beverages, and food. Physical activity helps your body regulate its internal temperature.
- Your aerobic capacity: With age, your body's ability to use the oxygen you breathe efficiently declines. With continued vigorous physical activity, your body pumps more oxygen to your muscles.
Eating for Healthy Aging
Whether you're over fifty or seventy, you (or an older relative or friend) need the same nutrients- proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water- but perhaps in slightly different amounts. When health or lifestyles limit food choices, or when meals and medications need careful coordination, consuming enough may be a challenge!
After age fifty, a few nutrients may need special attention: protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, and water. Among the reasons? Physical changes with aging affect how your body digests food, absorbs its nutrients and excretes wastes. Eating enough fibre-rich foods aids digestion and helps prevent the discomfort of constipation - two problems that may come with aging. To ease this discomfort, the Adequate Intake for total fiber after age fifty is 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women daily.
The challenge for healthy, older adults:
Get about the same amount of nutrients as before, but likely with fewer calories! To do that:
- Make smart choices with plenty of variety from all five food groups to get the nutrients you need- including those of special concern for older adults. Make the most of your discretionary calories with more healthful oils in place of saturated and trans fats.
- Get the most nutrition from your food and beverage choices- and your calories. Pick foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Go nutrient-rich!
- Find a balance between food and physical activity. That includes paying attention to your food and drink portions- and being physically active in ways that match your lifestyle and health.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other health problems (or if you're at risk for them), your needs may differ.
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