Healthy Habits = Healthy Aging

Studies Show Strength Training in later years supports healthy brain volume and cognitive function
Longevity Factor: Fitness

Healthy Habits = Healthy Aging

For both women and men, aging comes with an increased risk for a number of health issues including heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.  You may find it interesting to know the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicates that women over 50 are more likely to have one or more physical limitations compared to men of the same age.  This may be due to rates of bone loss in women when compared to men, however muscle mass is just as important, if not more important than bone mass. Maintaining good muscle mass can lead to a healthy metabolism, hormonal balance and even healthy cognitive function in aging men and women. In short, loss of muscle mass is loss of healthy aging.

While the risk for these health issues mainly increases after 45 – 50 years of age, there is this adage I want you to pay attention to.  It goes like this “It is never too early (or too late) to start taking care of your health.” It is never too late to improve your quality of life.  Some of the keys to healthy aging and muscle mass retention include:  healthy eating habits, consistent and sufficient exercise, a regular sleep schedule and staying connected with friends and family.

Eating Healthy

Our eating habits have changed dramatically over the years.  Portion sizes and the consumption of sugar-dense, nutrient-poor foods has risen substantially.  Because food practices and processing has changed and there is an ever-increasing demand on our body both physically and mentally, we must consider how our diet impacts our aging.  Too many simple foods have led to chronic health decline and too much emphasis on convenience has led to a poor sleep-high stress lifestyle.

Eating too many simple and medium/high glycemic foods is documented to not just increase waist size, but increase relative risk for fat deposition in the liver, hormonal chaos, heart health concerns…not to mention elevated blood sugars. This is why diet is so important.

Not only does a diet rich in color create a healthy alkaline/acid balance, it also offers fiber, antioxidants and plant enzymes essential for detoxification, glycemic balance and support of our energy pathways. Choosing healthy colorful foods and limiting unhealthy foods is only part of the battle.  Repairing metabolism requires a focus for rebuilding our core health making it essential to get proteins suitable for your age, gender and activity level.

When it comes to protein, your body requires sufficient quantities to meet its metabolic, neuroendocrine and reconstructive needs—over 70 thousand cells in the body need protein for basic metabolism. Many individuals are not paying close attention to consuming the protein they require for general health, let alone to support goals related to weight loss needs or longevity.

You may want to “hit two targets, with one arrow” #savethebirds by adding in more plant proteins.  Pea protein is considered to have an ideal amino acid profile for healthy aging and muscle growth/retention.

Staying Fit

It has been reported that only 48% of U.S. adults get the minimum recommended amount of exercise each week.  In addition to helping maintain a healthy body weight, adequate amounts of exercise also helps reduce the risk for health issues.   It is well understood a low ratio of muscle to fat may put you at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

Physical activity has been reported to help reduce the risk of heart disease by increasing HDL cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and improving heart fitness.  Additionally, adequate amounts of exercise help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk for diabetes.  Physical activity clearly has numerous health benefits.  Like eating healthy, it is never too early or too late to start exercising.  Since many chronic health issues progress over time without our awareness, it is best to develop and maintain a good physical activity plan throughout life.

Stay Connected

As we age we tend to be at greater risk for mood disorders like depression, stress, and anxiety.  Historically this has been due to decreased physical activity, loss of a life-partner and proximity of family and friends. This concern is starting to impact younger and younger people as they become more connected to their devices than to their communities.

Exercising with family and friends is not only a good way to stay connected, but exercise has been shown to enhance one’s mood, sleep factors and brain aging.  Volunteering with community organizations and joining special interest groups are other excellent ways to interact with others and stay connected and enhance your community.

It is also important to remember that our “stress chemicals”, and therefore our ability to balance mental and emotional health during our day to day tasks is dependent on a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat while using vitamins and minerals as energy catalysts for better function.

Implementing these key factors into one’s life is an important part of healthy aging and reducing the risk for numerous health issues.  The human body will use its resources to rebuild itself and support optimal function, as long as the ratios of nutrients are in balance.  The foods that we eat provide either the actual energy, or the necessary components the body needs for construction and reconstruction. What you consume, the quality of the foods you eat, even the timing of meals as well as an appreciation for physical movement (over a sedentary day) will play a leading role in the health of your stress response, sleep habits and over-all well-being and aging.