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Advice to Stay Healthy as You Age

Advice to Stay Healthy as You Age

I want to tell you about some newly released medical studies containing health facts and advice that everyone needs to know! Eating protein in 3 meals per day might help seniors preserve strength! Unfortunately, seniors lose muscle mass with age, but the decline really starts in adulthood. A Canadian study found that including protein in meals throughout the day helps to reduce muscle loss. As I age, I tend to only eat protein at dinner. This is truely a wake-up call! Stephanie Chevelier, one of the study's authors, says:
"The important point is to create three meal occasions with sufficient protein to stimulate muscle building and greater strength instead of just one ."
The study recommends 3 oz of protein spread into 3 meals for men. For women, the recommendation is just under 3 oz. The size of a bar of soap or the palm of the average adult hand is the size of 3 oz of meat. Some examples of 1 oz protein options include one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, and one quarter cup of cooked beans. This is quite simple. You just have to be intentional.

Mediterranean Diet vs. Western Diet

Another study from Italy reiterated the benefits of eating a real Mediterranean diet (not the pizza and pasta interpretation). Italy knows a thing or two about food and here are the details: eating more fruits and vegetables, and foods cooked in healthier ways are vital to good health. This is a special topic for me because I believe we are what we eat. This includes our skin health. I can't advocate for good skin care without advocating for good overall health and wellness. Aim to eat a small amount of fish and lean meats, olive oil, produce, and some whole grain foods. Your diet needs to be heavy on the fruit and veggies and less of the protein (3 oz per day), olive oil, and whole grains. This is an expensive flip on the Western diet of inexpensive carbs and sugar. The Italians advise how to make this diet work on a budget:
  • Look for sales to stretch your budget.
  • Buy in-season produce because it’s cheaper (and tastier).
  • Don’t overcook your foods because you'll lose nutrition and antioxidants.
  • Consider frozen and canned foods which are often more affordable.
  • Eat legumes (an affordable and tasty food group).
  • Substitute olive oil for other inexpensive plant-based oils.
Putting these two studies together: Note that in the first study, researchers found eating protein preserved muscle mass. Keep in mind that 3 oz of daily protein is not huge. It is consistent with the Mediterranean diet and inconsistent with the infamous 8 oz rib eye or quarter-pounder with fries diet! The first study also emphasized the importance of the ‘use it or lose it’ notion regarding mobility. Importantly, they did not find that eating protein helped preserve or improve mobility. Mobility is critical to the functionality and health of seniors. This is a complex topic as indicated by the next study. Seniors who participate in 'moderate-intensity' exercise were still found to be too sedentary! Participating in an exercise program did not increase overall daily activity levels as measured by devices like the Fit Bit. This means seniors need to spread out their activity throughout the day. Try any activity that involves movement. I think of this as functional fitness. For me, this includes gardening, housecleaning, parking the car at the far end of the parking lot and walking to the store, taking the stairs whenever possible etc. According to the study, the key is to keep moving throughout the day. The longer periods of being still, the less impact that your exercise time will have on your overall daily activity level. Use it or lose it! The last study showed viewing yourself as active is important to your health. Seeing yourself as an inactive person is dangerous to your health! It’s part of the ‘you are what you think’ paradigm. In the study, 60,000 Americans were followed for 21 years. Those who labeled themselves as physically less active were 71% more likely to die during that time. Those who made more positive identity claims were less likely to die. A positive self-image is important to your health.

The bottom line: eat it (Mediterranean style), do it (exercise), and claim it (because you rock!) – it’s the perfect trifecta

Specifically, as you age:
  1. Get moving!
  2. Eat a real Mediterranean diet including 3 oz of protein throughout the day.
  3. Exercise to maintain your functionality and mobility.
  4. Claim it all as your identity. You are a person who makes smart lifestyle choices!
As you get moving more, make sure you are protected from the sun. References: Farsijani, S., et. al., Even mealtime distritubion of protein intake is associated with greater muscle strength, but not with 3-y physical function decline, in free-living older adults., American J. of Clinical Nuttrition, May 17, 2017, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.146555 Marialaura Bonaccio, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, George Pounis, Simona Costanzo, Mariarosaria Persichillo, Chiara Cerletti, Maria Benedetta Donati, Giovanni de Gaetano, Licia Iacoviello on behalf of the Moli-sani Study Investigators. High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups: prospective findings from the Moli-sani study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2017 DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx145 Wanigatunga, AA, et. al., Association Between Structured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time in Older Adults, JAMA. 2017; 318(3):297-299. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.7203 Zahrt, O. H., & Crum, A. J. (2017, July 20). Perceived Physical Activity and Mortality: Evidence From Three Nationally Representative U.S. Samples. Health Psychology. Advance online publication.