Dayle Hayes 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Putting essential wellness tips into practice now will help you move into life’s “third chapter” more seamlessly. SINCE I WAS IN MY EARLY THIRTIES, I have made regular visits to see my in-laws, who live in Sun City, Fla., aka “The Town Too Busy to Retire.” For the last two decades, my mother-in-law, Helen, (now 93 years young) has resided at Freedom Plaza, a large complex of independent apartments and congregate dining. On my most recent visit, a cheerful, 80-something resident introduced herself in the elevator and asked me if I had just moved in! Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I am now of an age (61) to be contemplating a move to a retirement village somewhere. When I visit Freedom Plaza these days, I do spend a lot more time looking around and thinking about what I want for the so-called “third chapter” of my own life. On a recent trip, I attended the 8 a.m. water aerobics class, where Helen is the class instructor! I joined her and some 20 incredibly agile, active women and men in their seventies, eighties and nineties in doing an aquatic version of the Hokey Pokey. Obviously, my interest in healthy aging is both professional and personal. As a registered dietitian, I often am called upon to speak, write or blog about the relationship between smart eating habits and keeping your body in as great shape as possible. And I certainly expect to live a long and healthy life, filled with more of the adventures and travel that I have enjoyed to this point. So, I’ve read, listened and dug deep into the research to determine the secret strategies to wellness in my golden years. The answer? It boils down to four simple words: Nourish. Move. Rest. Repeat. Keep It Simple I know. I know. I can imagine your response might be something like, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? What about admonitions to lose weight, exercise more, lower my cholesterol, control my blood pressure and eat less salt, sugar and fat? Where are the lists of seven super foods to delay aging, six supplements to maintain vitality and five fabulous foods that melt fat? What about some realistic tips for better health?” Well, I’m not big on admonitions. (We’ve all heard them already.) And there’s no magic in pills, powders and potions. (They don’t work.) Instead, I believe we each can readily work toward the core principles that will guide us in making healthy eating choices, moving more and sleeping smarter. This article offers 12 lifestyle tips and advice for how we can embrace the core principles. But fi rst, I want to offer two caveats: ■ You’ve read or heard this all before. But getting well for the rest of your life is not about reading, it’s about doing. Good health and energy are necessary to enjoy the company of your grandchildren, travel the world or contribute to your community. Taking these steps, even gradually, is the investment you need to make those golden years shine. ■ These habits are not just for 50- or 60-somethings considering the possibility of retirement. The foundation of a healthy lifestyle is essentially the same at any age; it just gets more important as we get older. For example, choosing nutrient-rich foods certainly is important for health now—but as we age, we need fewer calories, which means we really need to learn to embrace these dietary choices over empty-calorie items with considerably less to offer. And while flexibility and balance are nice when you are young, once you are in your seventies and beyond, they can make the difference between living independently and moving to a nursing facility. NOURISH: Four Tasty Ways to Enjoy Balanced Meals and Snacks They used to be called “square meals,” and our parents probably ate them three times a day. But with today’s busy lifestyles, many people graze throughout the day—mindlessly consuming many more calories than they actually need. Does that sound uncomfortably familiar? If so, know that getting balance back into your meals and snacks will have both immediate and long-term benefits. When you consume the right balance of calories and nutrients for your body, you’ll feel better and have more energy immediately. You’ll also give your body what it needs for a long and healthy life. The new MyPlate healthy eating icon developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a perfect tool to guide your choices in nourishing your body. Eating the MyPlate way is delicious, convenient— and easy on your food budget! The new SuperTracker at ChooseMyPlate.gov is a free, online way to assess your typical eating patterns and physical activities to see how they stack up against current recommendations. 1. Put produce on half your plate, bowl or tray. There are two primary reasons that produce is the place to begin planning a balanced meal. First, fruits and veggies provide a nearly perfect nutrientrich package. They are low in fat and calories, cholesterol-free and packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant nutrients. Second, most American adults (and children) do not get anywhere near the recommended amounts of produce. At lunch or dinner, divide your plate in half with an imaginary line—and fill half with a rainbow of fruits and veggies. 2. Fill another quarter of the plate with the goodness of whole grains. Minimally processed whole grains, like whole-wheat bread, multi-grain cereal, oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain pastas, also are rich in nutrients and flavor. Like all plant foods, they are good sources of fiber and antioxidants. Enriched grain products are fortified with several of the vitamins and minerals that were removed with the bran during processing. On the other side of your plate’s imaginary line, divide that half into two quarters—and fill one quarter with grains. 3. Enjoy the power of lean protein foods. Perhaps you’ve been wondering what goes into that last, empty quarter of your plate? The power of lean protein, of course! There are so many delicious ways to get the protein your muscles crave, including lean beef, pork, lamb, fish, seafood, chicken, turkey and legumes (dried beans and peas). You’ll get plenty of protein from just 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat or the equivalent (like a half-cup of beans) per meal. Getting plenty of protein becomes particularly important as we age; it helps to counteract the natural loss of muscle mass. 4. Choose your beverages wisely. It’s time to re-think your drink—and move away from sugary beverages with excessive calories and no nutrient value! Here’s a simple rule of thumb for getting the fluid you need—and some important nutrients at the same time: Drink milk with meals and drink water with snacks. That generally works out to three 8-oz. glasses of fat-free/reduced-fat milk and two to three glasses of water each day. This is the minimum amount for adults to stay well-hydrated and meet their calcium needs throughout the day. And I have one more piece of advice when it comes to nourishing your body: Take time to enjoy your meals with friends and family whenever possible—avoid habitual grazing while glazing over in front of a television or computer screen. Opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti identified the importance of more mindful eating in his autobiography: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Remember, eating well is much more than a certain combination of nutrients on a plate. MOVE: Four Fun Ways to Enjoy a Balanced Fitness Routine Of course, it’s not just eating well that will help put you on a path to good health for your golden years. Staying physically active also is a big piece of the puzzle. Personally, I love the mind-body flexibility and strength that yoga gives me—to the point that I have thought seriously about becoming a yoga instructor in my retirement years. Professionally, I believe that the single best thing that we can do for our health is to spend at least 30 minutes a day being active. Since the most frequent excuse for not “exercising” is lack of time, here are a few truths to consider. First, a quote from the Earl of Derby: “Those who do not find time to exercise will have to find time for illness.” Second, a simple mantra for aging: Move it or lose it! And finally, the numbers: There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Surely, every one of us can find a way to fit fitness into at least 30 minutes of them. In planning my 30+ minutes of moving per day, I prefer not to think of it as “exercise,” which sounds like a sweaty, unpleasant chore. I prefer to think about play, transportation and spending time with friends. [Editors’ Note: For more on making time for fitness during small pockets of your day, see “Finding the Right Fit for Fitness,” March 2011.] Whatever you choose to call your activities, optimal fitness develops when you make four different types a part of your weekly routine: aerobics, strength, stretching and core activities. Above all else, the key to success is to plan for fun to be a significant part of your fitness activity. When you do physical activities that you enjoy, you are more likely to continue doing them. (The water aerobics class at Freedom Plaza had some serious fun with the Hokey Pokey!) Remember, of course, that if you have concerns about your ability to participate in any physical activity safely, discuss these with your healthcare provider. 5. Enjoy some playful aerobic activities. As we get older, some popular aerobics activities (think running) become uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous for our knee and ankle joints. Fortunately, an aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart pumping and makes you breathe a little faster and more deeply. This can be as simple as walking (indoors or out), dancing (ballroom to Zumba) or water aerobics. Aim for a total of 30 to 60 minutes per day, at least five days of the week. 6. Maintain and build muscles with strength activities. Age-appropriate strength training is vital from cradle to rocker— from our first baby steps for as long as we live. Research shows that people in their nineties can improve muscular fitness with simple strength training. There are many different ways to improve strength, both at the gym or a community fitness/rec center (free weights or machines) and at home (resistance bands or water bottles). Aim for some strengthening activities two to three times per week (with a rest day in between). 7. Stay flexible with stretching activities. While youthful bodies are naturally flexible, older ones need to devote time to gentle stretching on a regular basis, preferably for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day. Yoga and tai chi classes (or DVD/online instruction for home use) are excellent ways to enjoy the benefits of a full-body stretch. Ideally, some gentle stretching should be part of any other aerobic or strength activities that you do, as well. Anytime you attend a fitness or dance class, ask the instructor for tips for stretching safely at home. 8. Balance it all with core activities. Core muscles—those in your back, abdomen and pelvis—provide core stability for everyday balance and for preventing backaches. Like all muscles, your core muscles need strength, stretching and practice to work properly. Yoga, Pilates and stability ball activities all are excellent ways to practice balance and build a strong core. Being able to maintain our balance is important at all ages; it becomes essential as we get older. Losing one’s balance is one of the most frequent causes of injuries, like broken hips, that can drastically affect everyday mobility. REST: Four Calming Ways to Enjoy a Better Night’s Sleep Sleep is one of the most important, but often neglected, aspects of a healthy lifestyle. When Shakespeare’s Macbeth called sleep the “chief nourisher of life’s feast,” he was offering some sound health advice! Surveys indicate that more than one-third of Americans are not getting enough sleep, which contributes to a number of health problems. Too little sleep has been linked to overeating and weight gain, increased risk of diabetes and heart problems, decreased attention span, poor memory and depression. For overall health and well-being, as well as success at work and school, a solid night’s sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, more for children) is essential for good health and maximum energy. 9. Create a sleep-friendly space. A bedroom should be conducive to rest and also cool, dark, comfortable, uncluttered and free of interruptions. Blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, humidifiers, fans and other “white noise” devices all can help provide a room with comfortable sleeping conditions. You can help by putting TVs, computers and other distracting technology into another room. Mattresses and pillows should be comfortable and supportive. If yours are more than eight to 10 years old, they’ve more than exceeded their life expectancy and you are due for an upgrade. 10. Maintain a regular sleeping schedule. If you want to fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed, it is important to keep bedtimes and wake times as regular as possible, even on weekends. This helps to set your internal circadian clock, aka your sleep-wake cycle. Regular physical activity also can help you sleep well. For most of us, it’s better to be active during the day, like the late afternoon, rather than right before bedtime. Meal timing is critical, too. It is usually best to finish eating two to three hours before going to bed, especially if you suffer from gastric reflux. 11. Rethink your daily drinks (again). Alcoholic beverages, and those with caffeine, seriously can affect sleep patterns and nighttime wakefulness. Although we often think of alcohol as a sedative (something to make us sleepy), it actually disrupts sleep. Since drinking alcohol leads to less-restful sleep, avoid alcohol close to bedtime. As most people know well, caffeine also is a strong stimulant known for increasing alertness and disrupting deep sleep. For a better night’s sleep, avoid caffeine for six to eight hours before bedtime. This includes regular coffee and tea, as well as energy drinks and soft drinks with caffeine. 12. Get into a relaxing bedtime routine. Smart parents know that a regular bedtime routine—warm bath, reading a story and cuddling a favorite toy—is the best way to get children settled down and ready to sleep through the night. A relaxing, soothing routine that lets your body and brain know that it is time for sleep works equally well for adults. Turn the lights down low and enjoy a soak in the bath or a hot tub. Listen to some soft music and read something light and enjoyable. Avoid TV programs, especially those with violent or disturbing content. Ready, Set, Go! Are you ready to get started now—or at least work to improve upon your existing routines so that you can enjoy your golden years to the fullest? Let “Nourish. Move. Rest. Repeat.” become your mantra for life. These four pieces of advice are exactly how I plan to get well and stay well throughout my golden years. While I’m not sure that I can ever live up to my mother-in-law’s example by teaching a fitness class in my nineties, I’m sure going to give it a try! SN SNAPSHOT ■ Follow four core principles—Nourish, Move, Rest, Repeat—today and enjoy your golden years tomorrow. ■ It is never too late—or too early—to develop good health habits. ■ Getting well for the rest of your life is not about reading, it’s about doing. GOLDEN ADVICE While working toward the four core principles of golden-age wellness, keep in mind the following words of wisdom. It is never too late to be who you might have been.—George Eliot, English author If you are using the “it’s too late to make a difference” excuse, it’s time to move beyond that thinking! When it comes to nutrition, fitness and sleep, it is never too late—or too early—to adopt the habits that you wish that you had. While some things are truly impossible (such as having that 20-year old body again), there’s no need to throw in the towel when you turn 50, 60 or even 90! After all, research shows there is no age limit on building stronger muscles or improving your flexibility. And clearly, getting more fiber can help your intestinal health and regularity (a major topic of discussion in every retirement community) at any age. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.—Better Business Bureau, 1954 Snake oil was invented long before the “mad men” started working their commercial magic on Madison Avenue. In fact, it was the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that came up with this oft-used slogan. Sadly, over-hyped health products and treatments still sell very well in 2012. With 75 million+ Baby Boomers dreading the aging process, there is a massive market for anti-aging quackery. A quick web search turns up a truly amazing array of swindlers and hucksters ready to sell products to cure anything that ails you. Listen to the always-timely advice from the BBB and save your money for buying more freshly baked whole-grain bread or more produce from your local farmer’s market. Or, consider investing in some dancing lessons or Zumba classes. [Editors’ Note: For more on false nutrition and health claims and promotions, see “Snake Oil or Solid Science?”, December 2011.] The name of the game is taking care of yourself, because you’re going to live long enough to wish you had.—Grace Mirabella, former editor of Vogue magazine Given the nature of her job, Mirabella probably was talking about how you look on the outside, but these are wise words for taking care of the inside of your body, as well. Too often, we are focused on taking care of others in our family or community—and we forget the most important person in the process. Self-care is never selfi sh; it is essential if you want to accomplish anything else in life. MORE HEALTHY AGING RESOURCES Want to dig deeper into healthy aging? Have a specific question? Here are two valuable online resources: MAYO CLINIC www.mayoclinic.com/ health/healthy-aging/ MY00374 This section on the large Mayo Clinic site features sections titled Basics, In-depth, Multimedia, Expert Answers and Resources. The Mayo Clinic also publishes The Mayo Clinic Plan for Healthy Aging. WebMD www.webmd.com/ healthy-aging/default.htm This is another medical website with comprehensive information about health and aging, written by reputable experts in a variety of specialties. Dayle Hayes is a nutrition consultant and speaker based in Billings, Mont. You can reach her at EatWellatSchool@gmail.com. Photography by Jupiterimages, Goodshot, Thinkstock and Creatas Images.
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