Food & Fitness After 50: Run for your life!

Cheryl and Nancy
Cheryl, Nancy, and the rising sun in Atlanta

An alternate title for this post could be, “When Nancy met Cheryl.” It was not only the start of a running partnership, but also a lifelong friendship. Nancy was newly married when she moved into Cheryl’s neighborhood and they met when Cheryl, with her toddler in tow, delivered the community newsletter to her house. Cheryl invited Nancy to join her and another neighbor on a morning run. Cheryl is mom to three children (ages 22 to 29) and Nancy has five children, ages 17 to 24. Cheryl recalls how they “ran through Nancy’s five pregnancies and my next two! I always knew when she was pregnant because she couldn’t keep up our usual running pace!” Eventually the running group dwindled to just the two of them, and 25 years later, they are still running. And, that toddler that tagged along with Cheryl on her delivery route? He is a 29-year old lawyer!

Welcome to the neighborhood

“There was no better way to be welcomed to the neighborhood than joining a running group,” recalls Nancy. “We ran at 6am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and over the years our morning run has crept up earlier to 5:15 am and we now run daily, but my one partner, Cheryl, has stayed constant. She absolutely won’t run in the rain, but she does do cold…we just layer from head to toe! Our distance is about 4.5 miles, it’s a 45-minute run door to door.”

Benefits of early morning exercise

They preferred morning runs because they can get in their exercise before work; Cheryl is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator who works for Laureate Medical Group (self-disclosure, Cheryl was a former student of mine at Georgia State. She switched careers from dental hygienist to dietitian, making her a mature student who was inquisitive, motivated, and super smart!) Nancy works for Lactation Consultants of Atlanta, helping new moms at a crucial time in their lives to promote good health for both moms and babies. Morning exercise also gave them more time in the evening to prepare healthy meals and spend time with their families.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits

The dynamic duo also do spin and body sculpt classes on the weekend, and occasionally do longer runs at the river. “Yes, we exercise every day,” emphasizes Cheryl,” we need it both physically and mentally.” Cheryl says that the “morning runs are just not a run. We talk about everything from family, to the meaning of life, and even politics. We always have something to talk about.  We are each other’s therapist. My morning run with Nancy helps set me up for a good day. It’s a daily practice that grounds me. Even when I’m at a conference or on vacation; I start my day with exercise. It’s particularly important for me now that I am in my early 60s, as most of my work day involves sitting.”

Nancy agrees, “running is our savior, both mentally and physically. When life is good…it’s great, but when life gets a bit challenging, one needs that daily ‘check in’ with a friend! At a time when suicide rates are on the rise I would stress the importance of everyone checking in with someone. I love starting my day with exercise and a friend.”

Challenges for older runners

Cheryl, who is 7 years older than Nancy, admits there are challenges with aging. “I have knee pain with higher mileage, so I stick to 10-K distances (the annual Peachtree Road race is a must, and occasionally a 15-K, but no more half marathons!). I do some cross training, but plan to do more when I retire.”

Nancy adds, “It’s more important than ever to be mindful of your daily routines in life and never, ever underestimate your abilities, no matter your chronological age. I’ve had an ACL repair from skiing and a few other health issues, but staying positive, and having a friend like Cheryl makes a big difference. I also encourage folks to try new exercises, like kick boxing, spinning, barre workouts, or Zumba, it a good way to challenge your body and mind.”

I hope we can check in with Cheryl and Nancy many years from now and find they are still running; or at the very least, fast walking!

Find out more about the benefits of exercise and social support in Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Are you eating enough fruits & veggies?

Plate faceAre you eating enough fruits & veggies? Probably not, according to a new report from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention on fruit and vegetable consumption in the U.S. 

Most of us know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, offering protection against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers. Yet, only 12% of adults meet the recommended fruit intake (1.5-2 cups/day) and we do even worse with veggies; 9% get the suggested amount (2.5-3.5 cups.day).

Why are our eating habits so dismal when it comes to eating the good stuff? Many of us perceive that cooking and preparation is time consuming and difficult, so unless we slice a banana on our cereal or eat a serving of veggies with dinner, we don’t make much of an effort.

Many of you know that I don’t develop recipes like a lot of my dietitian friends. I’m more likely to assemble meals. So here are my ideas for getting more fruits and veggies into your meals. And, I welcome your ideas that might help others sneak in an extra serving or two (or three) of produce.

  • Never eat cereal, either hot or cold, without adding fresh or frozen berries.
  • Toss spinach and peppers into scrambled eggs or omelets.
  • Use fruit that is starting to get overripe in smoothies. Toss in fruit, add plain or vanilla Greek yogurt or milk and blend.
  • Salsa is a vegetable and is not just for tortilla chips. Add salsa to a baked potato, grilled fish or chicken, or on top of scrambled eggs.
  • Make protein-rich salads with canned black, kidney, or other starch beans or peas. Drain your favorite beans, add diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro and toss with a little oil and vinegar or Italian bottled salad dressing.
  • When you can’t get fresh veggies or fruits, don’t overlook frozen or canned. Today’s processing takes produce at it’s peak of ripeness and freezes or cans it quickly to preserve nutrients and taste.
  • Veggies - CopyTry a meatless pasta primavera
    • Saute broccoli, green, red, or yellow peppers, and onions in olive oil and serve over protein-enriched pasta (Barilla Protein-Plus Angel Hair pasta is my favorite); drizzle with olive oil and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • Roast vegetables in the oven
    • Cut up broccoli, cauliflower, or use whole fresh Brussels sprouts and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and shake the pan or use tongs to flip the pieces and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. And, you can also try this on the grill.Grilled Brussels Sprouts
  • Grill fruit this summer
    • Thread watermelon cubes and shrimp on metal or wooden skewers; brush lightly with canola oil and grill for a few minutes on each side (grilling brings out a sweet, smoky taste to fruit).
    • Grill peaches by cutting a fresh peach in half, removing the pit, and brush lightly with canola oil. Place cut-side down on grill for a few minutes until lightly charred. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or goat cheese.
  • Break out the wok, or a large frying pan 
    • Heat oil (I like to use peanut oil in the wok, it has a high smoke point so withstands the high temperatures for wok cooking) and toss in cut up pieces of chicken, cook until the chicken turns white and remove. Toss in all the bits and pieces of veggies in your vegetable bin. I like broccoli, carrots, celery, summer squash, onions, and peppers. Saute until cooked, but still crunchy, and add the chicken back into the pan. Season with chili paste to give it some kick, or reduced sodium soy sauce (or both!). Serve over brown rice.
  •  Bring veggies to summer parties
    • One of my favorites is caprese salad on a stick. Thread cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil leaves on a skewer. Drizzle with olive oil (I like Tuscan-herb infused olive oil for this appetizer) and you have a tasty, healthy, colorful dish. (You can find mozzarella pearls in the “fancy” cheese section of grocery stores and Walmart).
    • Steam edamame (immature soybeans in the pods) and lightly salt. Serve in the pods with small dish of soy sauce. Kids love to squeeze the beans out of the pod and into their mouths!
  • Let the kids help Hannah helps with Thanksgiving
    • Kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies if they have a hand in the preparation. A few years ago my great niece, Hannah, helped me make this “turkey” veggie tray for Thanksgiving. She was so proud of the creation and she couldn’t wait to serve it to the family, and eat some veggies herself. Pinterest is great for easy ideas like this one.
  • Visit Fruits and Veggies More Matters for hundreds of other great ideas and everything you could ever want to know about fruits and veggies.

For more ideas on how to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet, see Food & Fitness After 50.

Food & Fitness After 50: Do you have pre-diabetes? Now what?

prediabetes-FNLWhen my friend and colleague,  Jill Weisenberger, published a new book on prediabetes, I couldn’t wait to interview her and ask her to answer questions that adults 50+ have when told they have high blood sugar levels and prediabetes.

Jill is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert. She is the author of the four books including the best-selling Diabetes Weight Loss, Week by Week and the new Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. Jill has a private practice in Newport News, VA. She is a freelance writer and a consultant and spokesperson to the food industry, as well as a panelist for the US News & World Report Best Diet Rankings. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

How important is it for adults over 50 to get their blood sugar checked? What is the best way to get it checked….doctor, health fair, etc?

With each birthday, we have an increased risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Typically, healthcare providers screen for diabetes and prediabetes around age 45. Your provider may screen you earlier if you’re overweight, have fatty liver disease or heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels.

It’s a simple blood test. If it comes back abnormal, your provider will take a second measurement to verify the first one. If you are screened at a health fair, be certain to understand the results and follow up with your healthcare provider.

Test Prediabetes Diabetes
Fasting Plasma Glucose 100 – 125 mg/dl > 126 mg/dl
2-hour OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) 140 – 199 mg/dl > 200 mg/dl
Random plasma glucose in an individual with symptoms of diabetes such as excessive thirst and urination Not done to diagnose prediabetes > 200 mg/dl
A1C 5.7 – 6.4 % > 6.5%

Some people think that if they don’t have any symptoms, they don’t need to see a doctor or get blood work…what would you say to that?

You’re breaking my heart! Sadly, there are 70 million adults in the US who have prediabetes and don’t know it. And that’s precisely because there are no symptoms. If you randomly count out 9 adults who you spend time with, three of them are likely to have prediabetes. That’s how common the problem is. Only about 10% of people with the disorder know that they have it.

What is prediabetes and can diabetes be halted if you have prediabetes?                                                                                            

If your blood sugar level is higher than normal but lower than diabetes, you have prediabetes. This is how we define and diagnose prediabetes. But, prediabetes (like type 2 diabetes) is much bigger than a blood sugar problem.

The two things going on with prediabetes are insulin resistance and the loss of some of our insulin-producing ability. It’s a nasty double whammy. The body is stubborn and resists the action of insulin. Because of this, the pancreas pumps out extra insulin. Early on in the course of the disorder, that extra insulin is enough to tamp down blood sugar levels to the normal level. No one has any idea that there’s a problem. But over time, the body can’t produce enough insulin to make up for the body’s resistance. That’s when blood sugar levels first increase. That’s prediabetes. As time goes on, if the insulin resistance continues, there’s likely to be further loss of insulin-producing ability. Then blood sugar levels rise more, and we have type 2 diabetes.

Other problems associated with insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include blood vessel dysfunction, fatty liver, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer.

Because the problem is progressive, the best opportunity for a reversal is right this minute. There is some amount of urgency here because of the continued loss of insulin-producing capacity. Every day, your window of opportunity closes slightly. Without lifestyle changes, 37% of people with prediabetes are likely to progress to full blown type 2 diabetes within 4 years and most will have the diagnosis within 10 years.

Many people think every chronic disease is genetic and that there nothing they can do to prevent a disease like type 2 diabetes. What is the reality?

There are both genetic and environmental factors at play. We can’t change our genes, but we can do so much to improve our health and lower our risks of many chronic diseases, including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. There are conditions that have lifestyle solutions that include diet, physical activity, sleep and more. And this is exactly what I cover in Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.

Many older adults think carbs must be eliminated if their blood sugar is high…can you explain why carbs are needed and what are the “best” carbohydrate foods?

Especially in the prediabetes stage, I really shy away from emphasizing carbohydrates. Instead I put the focus on the quality of the food. Instead of asking yourself if this food is high-carb or low-carb, ask yourself if this is a wholesome, health-boosting food. Other than having lots of carbohydrates, lentils and lollipops don’t have much in common!

Interestingly, there are several carb-containing foods that improve insulin resistance or lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. I always recommend oats, barley, lentils, beans, yogurt, nuts, and fruits, especially berries.

Can you explain why there is really not such thing as a “diabetic diet?” 

As science has progressed, we’ve learned that there are many ways to a healthy plate, a healthy body weight, and blood sugar management. So again, the emphasis should be on food quality. However, once in the diabetes stage, we do have to put some limits on carbohydrate intake. This is when I help my clients become carb aware. I try so hard to keep them from being carb phobic. But regardless, food quality really matters.

How does exercise help lower blood sugar levels?

Soooo many ways, but I’ll keep it brief. First, every single time that you exercise, you boost your body’s insulin sensitivity. Yes, I mean that. Every single time! And it can last from 2 to 48 hours!

Taking a walk after a meal helps lower blood sugar levels from eating. Strength training helps to build muscle and that means that there’s more place for blood sugar to go because muscle is a big storage bucket for blood sugar. All exercise matters, and it all counts. It all reduces insulin resistance.

Reducing sedentary time is also important. The American Diabetes Association recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with three minutes of light activity every half hour. You can walk to the water fountain at work, take your dog outside, do push-ups against the wall. It doesn’t matter, just do something.

I really like the section in your book on preparing for “lifestyle reset,” many people want to dive in head first without any forethought; can you mention why your tips can help someone get on track to a healthier lifestyle?

So many people just want to follow rules and make big changes right away. They think that willpower and discipline will steer them the right way. But no one has enough willpower and discipline to do what they need or want to do all of the time. We need skills, strategies and a plan much more than we need willpower. It smart to learn about setting goals and building motivation. It’s smart to identify the habits that help you and those that hurt you. The time you put into these things will help you in the long run. My experience tells me that simply rushing to change leads to temporary success and more on and off dieting.

Yellow under trees
Author, Jill Weisenberger

I encourage to check out Jill’s website for many great tips on good health and tasty recipes. Here is a link to a delicious easy lemon basil sauce, perfect for fish or seafood.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, see Food & Fitness After 50.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: “Be aware, be alert, and be active”

Edee birthday
Edee, with friend Stephen, who hosted  her 80th birthday party

At her 80th birthday celebration last year, everyone who attended had an “Edee story.” The kind of story that brought a smile, a chuckle, or belly laugh at the retelling. My friends and I have had the privilege of knowing Edee for over 25 years and traveling to over 20 world-wide destinations…from Paris to Prague…with her. We jotted down the “80 reasons we love Edee” for her 80th birthday gift. The truth is we could have come up with 180 reasons!

 

Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • In her late 70s, she traveled to France to go truffle hunting with a guide and a pig.
  • She makes things happen; a impromptu party, a special tour, a unique flower arrangement, or a special bottle of wine will happen when she is around.
  • She is loving, caring, wise mentor to us.
  • She always sees the best in every situation.
  • She never failed to tell us when we were wearing the wrong lipstick color.
  • She has shown us how to do 60, 65, 70, 75 and now 80 with joy and elegance.

FOMO 

So, while she was recuperating from a total knee replacement and before a trip to Italy,

Edee truffle hunting
Truffle hunting in France

I asked Edee how she manages to stay so vibrant. Her response? “I stay active, engaged, and adventurous because I have a severe case of FOMO…fear of missing out!” Travel and adventure expands her horizons, and “makes me more interesting!” She advises all of her friends to not slow down, “nature does that to us anyway, so stay determined and disciplined.” She adds, “be determined to age well, which is different from aging.” And, does she ever walk the talk!

 

Shortly after knee replacement surgery, she has continued with physical therapy exercises three times a week and can’t wait to get back in the pool for water aerobics, which she does five days a week in the summer. She also practices yoga and works with a personal trainer. She likes to walk around her Washington DC neighborhood and at the Delaware beach. “Parking is expensive, so I like to walk. When I walk to shops, I buy less so I have less to carry home, so it is a triple benefit…no parking fees, less buying, and getting exercise!”

New challenges and new rules

Edee lost her husband several years ago and widowhood brought new challenges and imposed new rules. She organizes the neighbors in her condo for informal “Sunday Suppers” and helps the single men and women in her circle learn to take good care of themselves. “I help my friends by showing them how to look ahead, cook ahead, and plan ahead. Instead of looking behind at the past, we look at life now and take proactive steps to eat well and get regular exercise.”

Make a plan to stay connected to loved ones

With two children and three grandchildren who live in different states, she keeps up with her children with email and regularly scheduled weekly phone calls, in addition to frequent visits. With the grandchildren, it is different. “I’ve learned to text with them to catch them on the run.!” She also schedules regular calls with friends so as not to lose touch with them.

Embrace your community

She is an active community volunteer and strongly encourages those who can, give back. “I’ve been given much in my life and I want to share my bounty.” She suggests picking a charity and supporting it any way you can: financially or with your time. Her favorite organization is So Others Might Eat (or SOME), an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the more than 8,000 men, women, and children who are homeless in the nation’s capital.

Be aware, be alert, and be active

Edee
Traveling with Edee in Dublin

I titled this post, “Be aware, be alert, and be active.” That is Edee’s recipe for healthy aging:

 

  • be aware of your diet and the food choices you make every day,
  • be alert to the challenges of aging, such as increased risk for falls,
  • be active for at least 30 minutes every day….and get outside!”

That is definitely a recipe for healthy aging!

“The trick is to live a long time without growing old!!” Edith (Edee) Howard Hogan