5 Tips to Help America’s Aging Population Stay Healthier and Happier
As we age, most of us better understand our abilities and our limitations, helping us make better decisions. We understand that nutrition and exercise play a vital role in how we feel, and that looking after ourselves on a daily basis can help us feel younger as we age, and younger than our true age.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are nearly 75 million baby boomers in America. Here, I share tips to help boomers stay healthier and happier:
Dealing with Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes are a fact of life for both men and women. These changes may be accompanied by weight gain, especially in the mid-section. Hormonal changes can also lead to disrupted sleep or mood changes, which can be very stressful. So in addition to staying active and watching your weight, it is also important to find balance in your life and perform stress-relieving activities. Yoga, meditation or simply engaging in a new activity may help you to deal with the effects of hormonal change.
Balancing Your Nutrition
A healthy diet and active lifestyle is the best way to protect your health as you age. Balanced meals contain protein to keep you full and satisfied, plenty of fruits and veggies to provide vitamins and minerals, and just enough healthy fats to provide flavor. Fill about two-thirds of your plate with healthy carbs such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and the remaining one-third low-fat proteins, such as fish, poultry or lean meat.
Maintaining Healthy Bones as You Age
Strong, healthy bones are really built during adolescence and young adulthood. That’s because the body’s ability to store calcium in the bones peaks at about age 30, so this is a critical period during which you can maximize bone density. It’s important to get plenty of calcium in your diet and regularly engage in weight-bearing exercise at any age, but it’s particularly important when you’re younger to ensure bone health as you age. But that doesn’t mean all is lost if you’re older. Taking in adequate calcium every day (needs increase to from 1000 mg daily to about 1200 mg per day after age 50) and regular weight-bearing activity can help maintain bone strength.
Maintaining Muscle Mass and a Healthy Weight as You Age
Building muscle mass can be done at any age. When you establish the right habits at a young age – which includes consuming adequate protein and engaging in resistance exercise – you’re more likely to continue those habits throughout your life. The amount of muscle mass you have determines, in large part, your resting metabolic rate. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. Building and maintaining muscle mass is one of the best defenses against “creeping obesity” – the slow, incremental upticks in your body fat and weight as you age.
Maintaining Healthy Skin as You Age
The foods you put into your body, and the way you take care of your skin when you’re young, can affect the appearance of your skin as you age. Your skin relies on protein to manufacture its supporting structures, and plenty of fluid to help prevent dryness. Getting into the habit of cleansing, moisturizing and regularly using sunscreen when you’re young can help you to maintain a healthy complexion as you get older. Skin damage that happens when you’re young may not show up until decades later, so your best defense is to get in the habit of taking good care of your skin now.
Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND is a Registered Dietitian and Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. She hold a Master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition, is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and Board Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management, as well as a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Prior to joining Herbalife, she was the Assistant Director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and she has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. For most of her career, her focus has been on Nutrition Education – whether with patients in a clinical setting, with professional athletes, or with the public at large.