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No matter what age, it’s never too early to adopt positive lifestyle habits that help you age gracefully and healthier. For that reason, September is celebrated nationwide as Healthy Aging Month to encourage people—particularly those 45 and older—to follow healthy food, exercise, weight management and sleep habits.
Watch what you eat.
Nutritional needs change, particularly around middle age. Healthy eating habits help control blood pressure and cholesterol, decrease heart disease and stroke risks, and contribute to the prevention of cancer and diabetes. Nutritionists prefer Mediterranean-style diets that trend more plant than animal-based and are low in sugar, salt and saturated fats. Several “superfoods” also add extra nutritional boosts, particularly for anyone over 50.
Berries—berries are high in fiber, vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
Dark, leafy-green vegetables—foods such as kale, broccoli, arugula and spinach boost calcium needed as you age and bones become softer
Fish and seafood—salmon, cod, tuna, trout and other fish or seafood provide protein to maintain or regain muscle mass
Nuts and seeds—full of protein and fiber, a handful of omega-3 rich nuts and seeds staves off hunger and helps protect your brain
Cottage cheese—high in calcium and vitamin D, cottage cheese helps stimulate muscle protein to protect against bone density loss
Beans and legumes—cholesterol-lowering foods loaded with fiber and protein, low in calories, and rich in iron, potassium and magnesium
Water—technically not a “food” but water keeps the body functioning; optimum daily water intakes depend on many factors, just remember the 8×8 goal—eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
Manage your weight.
Probably the most difficult part of your health to maintain throughout your life is weight. Mindful eating—thinking about and planning how you eat—can help. Here are some tips:
Focus on and savor food, pausing between bites
Turn off electronic devices while eating; sit down to dine
Don’t keep junk food in the house
When dining out, check menus online and decide on your order in advance
Reduce your sugar intake and read all labels for added sugars
Replace late night cravings for food or alcohol with decaf teas or sparkling water
Extra weight increases risks for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Research shows that one-fourth of US adults with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed. Schedule routine wellness checks to monitor pre-diabetes warning signs.
Get up and move.
Exercise contributes to stronger bodies, better balance, weight management, improved moods, more energy, better sleep and healthier brains. No matter what type of activity you prefer, the key is to keep moving. Mindful walking, Cajun two-stepping, practicing yoga or gardening can be as beneficial as running, biking or swimming as long as you follow a regular routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week plus 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. Select an activity that you enjoy and get started:
Pace yourself by starting with 5 or 10 minutes of activity and add to it next week
Instead of a close parking spot, park and walk; take the stairs instead of elevators; avoid drive-through lines and walk inside
Ask a friend to become your workout buddy and hold each other accountable
Walk the dog more and longer; he won’t mind
Vary your routines and routes to prevent boredom
Schedule one-on-one walking meetings instead of sitting down at a desk
Practice mindful walking or walking meditations; studies show that tuning into your senses while walking helps you relax
Sleep more, stress less.
As you age, it often becomes more difficult to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of recommended nightly sleep. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also indicates that people in their 50s and 60s who get six hours or less of sleep a night have a higher risk of developing dementia later in life.
A good night’s sleep can lower rates of insulin resistance, heart disease and obesity, as well as improve creativity and decision-making skills. When well rested, it’s easier to manage your mental health and avoid becoming depressed, anxious and stressed.
See your doctor regularly.
For healthy aging, schedule routine screenings and annual wellness visits with your primary care physician or other provider. If you need help finding a doctor, visit our website at https://www.thibodaux.com/find-a-doctor.
For more information contact Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center, 985.493.4765.