As we age, there’s much to be done to prevent and manage conditions like osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Stress management and adequate sleep are crucial to aging gracefully. So too are being mindful of brain health, exercising and getting the right nutrients through food and supplements.
Research shows that new neuronal pathways in the brain can continue to form well into our 8th decade. Here are 3 top tips to keep in mind:
- Boost the brain with omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish (aim for two 75-gram servings per week) and 1/4 cup of unsalted nuts and seeds daily.
- Get plenty of antioxidants at every meal from fruits and veggies, spices and fibre-rich whole grains.
- Challenge your mind by learning new things; take up a language or musical instrument, do puzzles, dance or take yoga.
Making a Move
Complementing the brain boosters, exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells, improving learning, memory and executive function. There are plenty of benefits for the body, too.
Insulin sensitivity increases with exercise and helps with weight maintenance and keeps blood sugars stable. Exercise can also decrease inflammation, improving joint pain and function and lowering risk of chronic disease. Exercise also maintains muscle mass, keeping metabolically active tissue as opposed to fat tissue. This keeps our caloric need from decreasing and maintains bone density.
How much is enough? Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week: 30 minutes of brisk activity (walking, swimming, cycling) 3 to 4 days a week and 1 to 2 sessions of stretching or yoga, which will help maintain flexibility and range of motion.
Healthy Eating à la Empty Nest
When the kids leave home, cooking health-promoting meals at home can be challenging. To give our bodies nutritious and delicious foods and make cooking a snap, try these:
- Cook extra grains and legumes and blanch vegetables to freeze with ease. Or check out the freezer section at the grocery store for these items. This makes it easy to add wholesome foods to meals.
- Start a healthy meal swap with friends and neighbours; fill their re-usable containers and they can fill yours. These meals can be frozen for a quick dinner, too.
- Get a natural boost by blending a smoothie with fruits and veggies plus hemp seeds and plain yogurt or milk. These can be tasty creations that are great for those with dental difficulties or weight loss or fatigue concerns.
- Buy only what you need, especially when it comes to quality proteins. Keep in mind that a serving of seafood, poultry or meat is 120 grams raw. And it is recommended to limit red meat (beef, pork, lamb, bison) to 1 to 2 servings per week.
Suggested Supplements for Aging Well
Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cells and anemia prevention. Adults need 2.4 micrograms daily. Beyond age 50, the human body becomes less efficient in processing and absorbing B12 so a supplement is recommended.
Vitamin D can be made through our skin with sunshine (mainly during the summer months) or found in fish, egg yolks, and fortified milks. This sunshine vitamin is useful for bone health and immunity. As we age, we need at least 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D from food sources, fortified foods and also likely a supplement—especially if spending a lot of time indoors or between October and April when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.
Nicole Fetterly is one of Choices’ Registered Dietitians. If you’d like more tips about aging gracefully, email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.