May is Older Americans Month and a great time to assess your overall health. Read about some easy changes you can make in your diet and physical activities to enjoy a longer, healthier life.
Get Wiser about Getting Older
As you age, the circumstances of your life and your body change, and so does what you need to do to stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight and activity level can be a challenge. You may lose muscle, which can lead to frailty. Being underweight as you age can be as problematic as being overweight. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eating nutrient-dense foods, controlling portion sizes, and varying your physical activity can help you maintain your strength and a healthy weight as you age.
Eat from the rainbow
As you age, your body needs fewer calories but just as many nutrients. Nutrient-dense foods provide a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and other required nutrients without too many calories.
Eat more of these foods:
- Fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of colors
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and brown rice
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, soy or rice milk fortified with vitamin D and calcium
- Seafood, lean meat, poultry and eggs
- Beans, nuts and seeds
Eat less of these foods:
- Drinks or desserts that are sweetened with sugar
- Foods cooked with butter, shortening or any fats that are solid at room temperature
- White rice or bread and pasta made from refined grains
To help control portions, avoid eating in front of the TV or computer since you are likely to eat more when you’re distracted. Read the nutrition labels on food packages or menus to be aware of calories. Plan ahead and freeze meals for days when you don’t want to cook. Eat with friends or family as often as you can.
Keep active at any age
It’s never too late to incorporate physical activity into your life to improve your health. For any new activities, set a goal then take a slow path to reach it. Keep a diary to stay motivated. The NIH recommends a variety of activities for older adults including aerobic exercise and activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility.
Some activities offer multiple benefits. Water aerobics with weights, for instance, provides strengthening and aerobic payoffs. Yoga improves balance, flexibility and strength. Walking with friends offers social and physical benefits. With any new activity, you should follow some safety tips:
- Ask your healthcare provider how to safely increase your physical activity.
- Warm up and cool down.
- Start slowly and build up to more activity.
- Wear sturdy shoes.
- Stop if you have pain, become lightheaded or short of breath.
- Drink plenty of water.
Be good to yourself
Many older adults feel sad or lonely. Being good to yourself is a powerful way to improve your overall health. Here are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Select high-fiber foods.
- Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese every day.
- Stay connected with your family, friends and community.
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