4 ways to keep a healthy body and mind as we age


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Since the lifestyle choices we make from a young age can affect how we age, it’s important to start eating well, exercising, and taking care of our bodies early on. Here are a few things to think about as you strive to keep your body and mind healthy.

Keeping Strong Bones

Osteoporosis, a weakening of the bone tissue, occurs more frequently in older people. You can help prevent it by doing safe exercise and eating adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D-rich foods, such as milk, yogurt, greens, beans, fish, and fortified cereals. Sunshine is one of the best sources of Vitamin D, but it can be more difficult for older adults to make, absorb, and use vitamin D. If you don’t think you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet and from sunshine, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement may be right for you.

Keeping Strong Muscles

Just like strong bones, our muscles are kept healthy through staying active. It’s best to participate in a mixture of strength training, cardiovascular, and flexibility-type exercise. Muscles can’t be built or maintained without exercise, but getting enough protein in your diet is essential, as well. Most people need 2-3 servings (about 3 ounces each) of high-protein foods throughout the day, but there is some evidence that older adults may need even more. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, dairy, and nuts are good sources of protein. It’s a good idea to eat a balanced meal or snack containing a serving of high-protein foods after exercising to encourage muscle-building.

Keeping a Strong Immune System

With older age generally comes greater susceptibility to illnesses. Deficiencies that stem from not eating enough nutritious foods can play a role in weakening the immune system. It’s also important to take preventive measures such as getting the flu vaccine every year. Quitting smoking, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a balanced diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system strong.

Keeping a Strong Mind

While there is currently no way of preventing dementia, we can take steps to keep our brains as healthy as possible as we age. B-vitamins are essential in brain health, and it can be more difficult for older adults to meet their needs. Animal protein and fortified cereals are good sources of vitamin B12. Whole grains, eggs, nuts, and seeds are good sources of thiamine. Fortified cereals, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beans are good sources of folic acid.

Many things about our bodies change as we get older, but the basic tenets of good nutrition—variety, moderation, and balance—still apply. Healthy eating, good hydration, an active lifestyle, and a good attitude can make a big difference in successful aging.

For more information about good nutrition for healthy aging, get in touch with a registered dietitian at your local VA.


Portrait of Erica GoldenAbout the Author: Erica Golden is a long-term care clinical dietitian working with Veterans in the Bonham VA Community Living Center in North Texas. She is passionate about helping people eat well and improve their relationships with food to live healthier, happier lives.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Sumon Mia    

    The truth is, there’s no single “miracle cure” for memory problems or other brain changes that come with aging. But there is cause for optimism. Science points to a combination of social factors and healthy habits that—taken together—can help you build, preserve, and protect your brain’s function over time.

  2. Ron McNeal    

    Can you please pass to Erica to keep up the good work? I am a veteran and just got exposed to plant based diets through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Dr. Neal Barnard) in Wash DC. I think as more people understand the data related to plant based diets, it will continue to grow. It caught my eye also because I live outside Wash now but was born in the Bonham hospital in Texas.

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