The truth is that some people do age gracefully. Their health is relatively good, both physically and mentally, even in their golden years. A postive attitude toward aging can go a long way. Consider just a few research findings:
- When older adults associate aging with positives (i.e. more wisdom, self-realization, and satisfaction), they show evidence of a higher level of functioning and are more likely to recover from a bout of disability. (Research from The Journal of the American Medical Association)
- Those who associated aging with positives lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative age stereotypes. (Research from The Journal of Personal and Social Psychology)
Can you enjoy good health in your golden years? Definitely! Even simple dietary changes can help keep you looking and feeling younger. Like always, though, there's a catch! There always is. You need to do the work.
"But I've been eating unhealthy all these years! What's the point in changing now?" To quote American writer Betty Friedan, "aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength." It's not too late. You can still make a difference. Plenty of studies attest to the fact that positive changes in later years can improve health significantly.
Heart Health: Don't Skip a Beat
It's true, you may not be able to work as much as you used to. You especially feel it when trying to garden, work out, or just play with your grandchildren. This is because lungs lose their aerobic capacity and take in less oxygen. Also, the heart pumps with less force and less frequently. According to the National Institute on Aging, age can also cause blood vessels to become stiffer, valves thicker, and the size of various sections of the heart may increase.
Instead of giving you a list of what not to eat (less "negatives", more "positives"), here is what you can focus on. Remember, the emphasis is on healthy fats, not necessarily on low fat. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (such as from canola, olive, sunflower oils or avocados, nuts, and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids. Making extra-virgin olive oil your main fat can help increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad cholesterol.
A good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids is a must. Flaxseed oil can help lower cholesterol. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna (or fish oil capsules like EnergyFirst OmegaEnergy) can protect against fatal heart arrhythmias.
The more variety, the better. Try to cycle through all the vegetables you have access to without repeating them in the same week. Use fresh vegetables, especially the local varieties that haven't lost as much nutritional value during long periods of shipping, and frozen vegetables, which minimize nutrition loss thanks to early processing. These are filled with heart-protective vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Are your joints beginning to creak? Aging joints tend to lose flexibility. Also, the cushioning cartilage that normally protects bones shrinks from years of wear and tear.
Spice up your diet with ginger. It has exactly what you need to fight the inflammation that triggers arthritic pain. A research study published in Medical Hypothesis shows that Zingiber officinale, or ginger, effectively worked in all tested subjects with muscular discomfort and in 75% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Swelling and pain was relieved.
How does ginger compare to the hundreds of drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, methotrexate, cyclosporine, or disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs used for arthritic pain? While these drugs cause mild to serious side effects, patients experienced ZERO adverse side effects from taking ginger from 3 months to 2.5 years.
If you experience a lot of stiffness in the joints, consider glucosamine sulfate for joint repair such as in EnergyFirst's Glucosamine Complex supplement.
Another way to achieve pain-free joints is a diet providing plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, and selenium. What do these have in common? These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce joint swelling and inflammation. Find them in yellow and orange fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, papaya, and berries. Also, find a great balance of these nutrients in EnergyFirst's multivitamin/mineral plus ACE.
Keep Your Vision Sharp
Losing vision is one of the greatest concerns for the aging population. Yet, eye health barely gets the attention it needs. It's important not to forget or overlook the strong link between good nutrition and eye health. Taking a supplement that balances the following eye-protecting nutrients can reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper. EnergyFirst's Lutein Plus Eye complex contains these nutrients plus two potent antioxidants, zeaxanthin and lutein, nature's sunblock for the eye. These antioxidants are known to protect eyes from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
A diet rich in a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds will help maximize your supply of these nutrients. Dark leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, or collard greens) and fatty fish (such as salmon or halibut) are great for targeting inflammation that causes eye damage.
Preserving Bones and Muscles
During aging, roughly 2% of muscle mass is lost each year. This leads to a slower metabolism. In order to maintain muscle mass and prevent excessive increase in fat mass, regularly exercise. Aerobic and weight-bearing exercise is especially important. As a plus, since your immune system relies on proteins, maintaining muscle mass will also keep your immune system strong.
EnergyFirst's ProEnergy is a lean source of whey protein that can easily be included in a morning shake, your oatmeal, yogurt, or a healthy baked recipe.
The things you did at age 20 to protect your bones apply now, too. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are key. Weight-bearing exercise is also a must. If you aren't regularly exercising now, it isn't too late to start!
Don't forget food sources of calcium, including low-fat dairy foods, dark-green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with small bones. If lactose intolerance is creeping up on you as you age, a supplement with calcium may help fill the gaps.
Keep Your Digestion Going
Digestive enzymes tend to slow down with age, too. Unfortunately, this means fewer nutrients are absorbed. Adding digestive enzyme supplements to a meal, such as EnergyFirst's Enerzyme, can help reduce digestive problems and enhance the nutritional value you extract from a meal.
Your greatest weapon against constipation during aging is adequate amounts of fiber and fluids. Your oatmeal is great not just for lowering cholesterol but also for preventing constipation. Physical activity will also stimulate the muscles that keep food moving through the gastrointestinal tract.
As if graying hair isn't enough, you watch as your skin slowly wrinkles. Skin starts to lose its resiliency as well as its ability to produce and retain moisture.
Dry or itchy skin? Stay well-hydrated with water.
To keep your skin vibrant, and reduce damage as well as boost its resiliency, consume enough beta-carotene. Veggies such as sweet potates, carrots, spinach, red peppers, or apricots, canteloupe, and mango.
Keep Your Brain Young
Those memory lapses aren't funny anymore when they happen so frequently. Forgetfulness and trouble learning or remembering a new name or an appointment are serious concerns with aging.
Here is yet another reason not to skimp on fruits and vegetables, especially flavanoid-rich vegetables. Since there are 5 main types of flavanoids, it's important to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to get all of them in your diet. They are found in produce ranging from apples, peaches, pears, and cherries, to onions, parsley, romaine lettuce, and chili peppers.
Grapefruit, cantaloupe, blueberries, and bananas as well as cabbage, turnip greens, bell peppers, garbanzo beans and tomatoes are all good sources of all 5 types of flavanoids. Make it a goal to consume all types of berries and of each color - red, purple, and blue. Throw them in a yogurt, a shake, or a salad.
Why flavanoids? Evidence shows flavanoid sources, such as berries, can protect your brain cells and aid memory.
Vitamin B12 is another nutrient of concern for optimal brain function. With age, the body loses its ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food. Supplementation with B12 is crucial.
If we could sum up the not-so-secret whole-body approach to healthy aging in two words: balanced diet. You may have noticed that many of the guidelines for different body systems overlap. Healthy aging is truly a function of how well you live and how much effort you put into living a healthy life. Supplements may fill in the gaps but your diet is still the secret to making the difference, to feeling younger even as you grow older.
Archives of Ophthalmology; 2007; 125(9): 1225-1232.
J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006 Sep-Oct;21(5 Suppl 1):S27-39.
Med Hypotheses. 1992;39(4):342-348.