Food & Fitness After 50: Citicoline for brain health?

In 2015 I wrote a post on a dietary supplement called citicoline. For the post click here.

HealthyBrainIn the post I wrote about learning of citicoline at a conference and was given a sample. My husband had been experiencing some trouble finding the right word when he was speaking so he wanted to try the supplement. From that day on he has continued to use the product. Although his report of improved brain health is anecdotal (one person’s subjective experience does not equal a fact) there is some research to support the positive effects of the supplement. He is such a disciple of citicoline that many of his family and friends now take it. But, should you?

I was interested in finding additional and more current, research since the 2015 post was written but didn’t find much. One reason might be that dietary supplement companies tend not to invest in rigorous experimental research trials because they are not required to do so to market a supplement. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements don’t have to prove they work to be sold; that’s why there are so many supplements readily available.

Citicholine
Chemical structure of citicoline

To begin, citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical. It is not found to any great extent in foods (there is some in organ meats) but when taken as a supplement it is broken down into choline (a B-vitamin) and a compound called cytidine which is then metabolized to uridine. That’s important because citicoline can’t cross the protective blood brain barrier but choline and uridine can. Once in the brain the compounds convert to citicoline, sometimes called CDP-choline. In turn, citicoline increases the brain chemical phosphtidylcholine that helps brain function and increases the number of chemical messengers in the brain.

When I first reviewed the literature the small number of studies that had been published cautiously suggested that supplemental citicoline could be an effective treatment for mild cognitive impairment but more research was needed to see if the effect was long term (most studies are short term…a few weeks to a few months) and if it could slow the progression to dementia.

A study published in 2012 was well-controlled: by a well-controlled study I mean the participants in the study were randomized to treatment and it was double-blind…neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting the citicoline or placebo. The researchers studied 60 healthy women, between the ages of 40 and 60, and showed that when given either 250 or 500 milligrams of citicoline both groups improved on tests to measure mental attention compared to the placebo group. However, this was another short-term study; just 28 days.

My quest to find more current research was unsuccessful so I turned to Natural Medicines Database for their review. The conclusion, which was last updated in November of 2019, was that citicoline is “possibly effective” for a decline in memory and thinking sills that occur with normal aging. Supplemental citicoline “seems to help memory loss in people aged 50 to 85 years.” The review noted there is insufficient evidence to say it prevents or reverses memory losses in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are minimal side effects, although some people report trouble sleeping, headache, or nausea.

The dose of citicoline ranges from 250 milligrams to 2000 milligrams a day, but the range of 250 to 500 milligrams is a usual dose used the research studies.

If you choose to try citicoline, it is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider. And, be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, including dietary supplements, when your doctor asks about medications you are taking.

CDP_suplrgI found over 150 products marketed that contain citicoline, some with fanciful names, liked Active Mind or Brain Wave that claim to “speed up your brain.” Many of those products also contain caffeine; the likely source of “speeding” the brain. If you get the blessing from your physician and want to try it, stick to one that just contains citicoline. Two reputable products are Cognizin (Kyowa Hakko) and Citicoline CDP choline (Jarrow). The Jarrow formula is the one that my husband takes.

As for me, my memory is good and I haven’t found a reason to try a supplement, but my husband believes it has helped him.

To learn more about dietary patterns and supplements for those 50, 60, 70, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50available on Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no financial connection to any dietary supplement, including the citicoline brands mentioned in this article.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Unlocking the MIND Diet

While there is no one best diet for those over the age of 50, in Food & Fitness After 50, we highlight four healthy eating plans that can work for just about everyone. And, it happens that these are the top four plans identified as the “Best Diets” by U.S. News & World Report in their 2019 review. The four plans are:

  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The DASH Eating Plan
  • The Flexitarian Diet
  • The MIND Diet

minddietThe MIND diet stands for the official mouthful name of the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. A much catchier title is the MIND diet because its premise is that diet can delay cognitive decline.  Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied over 900 older adults from retirement communities for 5 years; those who had the greatest adherence to the MIND diet suffered less cognitive decline than those who did not. This was an observational study, meaning that it shows association with diet and brain health, but it doesn’t prove it. So, the researchers are in the midst of conducting a longer, more rigorous study with adults in both Chicago and Boston. The results will be available in a couple of years.

However, the diet plan is healthy and while it can’t promise to prevent all cognitive decline with aging, it certainly can’t hurt as the plan is comprised of healthy foods that we should all be consuming.

Today, we feature the MIND diet by posing questions to registered dietitian, author, colleague, and friend, Maggie Moon. I met Maggie many moons ago at a CIA meeting…. Culinary Institute of America, not the spy agency, in her role as nutrition communications director for the Wonderful Company. The folks that bring us tasty, healthful foods, like pistachios, almonds, pomegranates and juice, and Halo mandarins. Maggie has written two books: The MIND Diet and the Telomere Diet Cookbook.

Chris and MaggieAs you can see from the photo of the two of us together at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference, she is not in my age demographic, so my first question was obvious!

Question: You are a young woman…. how did you get interested in writing about food and nutrition to prevent cognitive decline which is something we think about as a part of aging?

Answer: I’ve been a registered dietitian for more than ten years and while I do still feel youthful, to answer your question, I think about when I was truly young. I grew up in a three-generation household with my parents and my grandmother. They were all immigrants from a war-weary and economically depressed South Korea in the late 1960s, so my immediate family is all I have. I am lucky to have a handful of siblings, but no big extended family. Because of this I feel extremely close to my parents and am ferociously driven to support their wellbeing. And because I was just as close to my grandmother, I’ve been aware of the importance of healthy aging from a young age.

I’ve always had an affinity for the elderly, probably because of my relationship with my grandmother. I love helping them and it is upsetting to my core when I hear about mistreatment of older adults. Truth is, I’m looking forward to being old lady! I’m in no rush, but it is something I think of fondly. I think of aging as a privilege.

This is a long answer to a simple question, but I guess it boils down to my writing what I care about. And I care about helping people thrive as they age and improving their health in longevity. It starts with my own parents, but then extends to my and my husband’s future, and finally to all humans that I can reach with my work, whether they’re worried about their own health or someone else’s.

 Question: Can you describe the MIND diet in your own words. What is it about the diet that would appeal to older adults and when is the best time to adopt the MIND principles? I can image some people in their 60s saying “it’s too late for me.”

Mind diet coverThe MIND diet was born from research led by Dr. Martha Clare Morris at Rush University in Chicago. Its foundation is a blend of two well-studied heart-healthy diets, but what makes it different is that it’s been optimized for brain health based on the available evidence for which specific foods support cognitive health, slow down decline, and reduce the risk of developing dementia. The two landmark studies that came out in late 2015 suggest that following the MIND diet keeps the brain 7.5 years cognitively younger and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to those who didn’t follow the principles of the diet.

It’s never too late, especially for someone in their 60s. Most of the research related to the MIND diet is with older adults, so it’s clearly relevant throughout older adulthood. The Alzheimer’s study was conducted with people ages 58-98 and the average age in the cognitive decline study was 81 years old.

That said, the results indicate that the longer someone followed the dietary principles the greater the benefit for brain health, suggesting that more years of healthy eating was more protective. Therefore, I think it’s important for people to eat for brain health at any age, but especially after age 40.

Question: What are the core principles of the diet? How did you develop the recipes for the book?

The core principles of the MIND diet includes ten healthy food groups that make up the foundation of the eating pattern. It also includes five food groups that should be limited.

The MIND diet includes whole grains, vegetables, olive oil, red wine (for those who drink alcohol), leafy greens, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, and seafood. From a culinary and cultural sensitivity perspective, I appreciate that the food groups are so broad that they can be adapted to many different heritage diets and preferences. The foods to limit include processed and red meat, solid fats from butter, margarine and cheese, fried food in general but especially from fast food, and added sugars from pastries and other sweets.

Here is a breakdown of recommended food groups to consume:

Foundation (these are minimums, except for red wine)

  • Whole grains – 3 times a day
  • Vegetables – daily
  • Olive oil – used as main fat
  • Red wine – a glass with a meal (only one; excess here is detrimental, and of course, if you don’t drink you won’t miss the benefits of the diet)
  • Leafy greens – six times/week
  • Nuts – 5 times/week
  • Beans – 4 times/week
  • Berries – 2 times/week
  • Poultry – 2 times/week
  • Seafood – 1 time/week

Limit

  • Processed and red meat – less than 4 times/week (e.g. no more than 3 times/week)
  • Butter/margarine – less than 1 tbsp/day (e.g. no more than 1-2 tsp/day)
  • Cheese – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Fried food – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Sweets – less than 5 times/week (e.g. no more than 4 times/week)

The recipes for the book were developed by me and other culinary dietitians. For the guest recipes, I collaborated with trusted colleagues. I provided the recipe parameters and then reviewed submissions to ensure they fit the guidelines and added a good variety of options before selecting them for my book.

Question: Let’s describe your newest book about telomere health….fill us in on how this ties into the MIND diet.

telomere-book-cover-on-amazonMy newest book, The Telomere Diet & Cookbook, came out in fall of 2019. It’s about genetic aging on a cellular level, and how what we eat can slow or accelerate biological aging. Telomeres are protective endcaps to our chromosomes, and they prematurely dwindle when exposed to inflammatory diets, environmental toxins, and poor sleep, to name a few. They protect the DNA in our chromosomes like shoelace tips protect shoelaces from unraveling and growing dysfunctional. Telomere length is a widely-accepted gauge for biological aging in research.

Telomere health is ultimately tied back to fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, which are also systemic issues the MIND diet attacks and improves. Both books are about healthy aging for all. In both books, the evidence-based perspective is that the more years spent eating healthfully the better. That sounds like common sense, and to some degree it is, but it actually signals a shift in thinking about aging: in this paradigm, aging is a continuum that begins at birth, not just once we hit a certain birthday. This is why two 50-year old people can be in completely different stages of biological aging while at the same chronological age – one vibrant, active and thriving; the other sedentary, sluggish and beleaguered with chronic health conditions. Of course, genetics, socio-economic factors, and lifestyle all play a part, but what we eat is something under our control.

Question: What the 3 key takeaways that you want people to know about cognitive health as we age?

  1. It’s never too late to start to eat healthfully.
  2. The earlier you start the better.
  3. Prevention through a healthy diet and lifestyle, not waiting for a miracle medication, is currently the best defense against age-related cognitive decline.

For more information on both diets, check out Maggie’s website by clicking here.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Beat the Barriers

This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50.

“Move more and eat less” is the simplest advice for maintaining both a healthy body and a healthy body weight.  As simple as that advice might be, both sides of that equation can be fraught with complications.  However, none of those complications are insurmountable; in fact, even minor adjustments in our lifestyle habits can translate into major changes in our fitness, body weight, and overall health.

On the “move more” side of the equation, study after study consistently point to the undeniable benefits of daily physical activity to health and longevity. A recent study on 122,007 adults conducted over 23 years concluded that increased aerobic fitness “… was associated with reduced long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit.” Simply put, keeping our bodies moving as often as possible extends our healthspan, allowing us to live as healthy as possible for as long as possible.  But even for the most motivated among us, each day presents barriers to staying active, barriers that we have to overcome or at least side step so that we can move more and sit less.

Barrier-Construction4Below are six common barriers that we can all relate to, along with some simple ways to keep them from becoming everyday excuses.

I’m too busy.  We all have the same 1,440 minutes each and every day, including those whose family, work, and personal demands keep them crazed from the time they wake until the time they sleep.  Even when it feels as though our lives are out of control, we can still find a few minutes to move.  Brief “activity snacks” throughout busy days can help relieve stress and break up long periods of sitting.  Walking stairs, taking the long way around the office, doing isometric exercises while seated, a few pushups, squats, or toe-raises are all ways to sneak physical activity into a crammed day.  And if the work week just doesn’t allow time for much movement, then being a weekend warrior is much better than just collapsing in front of the TV.push up

I’m too tired.  We can all relate to feeling absolutely drained—and there are times when taking a nap is a healthier choice than forcing yourself to exercise.  When energy levels are so low that a workout is just out of the question, a good alternative is to take a walk, even if that means strolling through your home during television commercials.  Any movement is better than no movement and just taking a walk can help boost our spirits and energy.

It’s too painful.  Aches and pains are an inevitable part of aging and sometimes pain can be so debilitating that moving is out of the question.  But for lesser aches and pains, we can find ways to keep ourselves moving without aggravating nagging problems.  Bad knees or hips?  Keep your upper body and core active with seated or standing movements and exercises that don’t make matters worse.  Arthritic hands?  Walking is an obvious option, as are simple hand, arm, and shoulder exercises with light or no resistance can help relieve arthritic pain and strengthen surrounding muscles.

It’s too expensive.  There is no doubt that exercise can become expensive, but only if we choose it to be.  Joining a health club, working with a personal trainer, buying a bicycle, or even getting new exercise shoes all cost money.  But walking is free, as are many online exercise videos, traditional calisthenics (think of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, etc.), stair climbing, yard work, household chores, etc.  The goal is to keep moving whenever possible and there are endless ways to do just that.

Older walkersIt’s too boring.  Some people just hate the regimented nature of group exercise classes or tire quickly of traditional activities such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling.  The challenge then becomes finding activities that keep us engaged.  Even if we regularly flitter from one activity to another, the very fact that we’re active is what is most important.  There are lots of ways to fit move movement into each day and the best of those are the ones that we enjoy the most.

removing barriersIt’s too late (to do any good).  One of the goals of Food and Fitness After 50 is to remind readers that it’s never too late to get and stay active.  Experts sometimes refer to regular physical activity as a polypill, a medicine with multiple benefits.  Even if you’ve led a sedentary life for the past 50 years, adding more movement to every day will dramatically improve your healthspan.  Staying active keeps us fit and strong, and that directly contributes to happier, healthier, longer lives.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.

Food & Fitness After 50: The Value of Life-Long Learning

Elizabeth CarlsonWe often hear about the value of life-long learning, but how many of us are stuck in our daily grinds and tell ourselves that someday we’ll get around to reading that book or taking an online class to improve a skill that has eluded us? Well, not Elizabeth, who at age 89, is still learning. Recently, she enrolled in financial planning courses so she could manage her own investments (which she does quite well from her laptop!) Elizabeth had to learn to do for herself at an early age. Her husband died when she was just 43 years old so she set her priorities: get a job, raise her three children (who were in high school at the time), and make sure she had enough money to help her kids get to college. From a research librarian to working in consumer affairs for a regional grocery store chain, she did whatever she needed to do to support her family.

When asked about her path to healthy aging, Elizabeth recounted how her parents set a great example on healthy eating, which she has passed on to her children. “My father had a garden and we always had fresh vegetables on the dinner table. I learned to can what we grew so there would always be vegetables in the house, even in the harsh New England winters.” Her parents also raised chickens and had fresh eggs, and they encouraged her and her three siblings to choose “colorful” foods, long before the dietary mantra to do so came to be popular. She became a canning leader for the local high school to teach boys and girls how to preserve food. She thinks that Americans have “come full circle,” enjoying gardening and shopping at Farmer’s Markets and trying to choose healthier foods.

As for exercise, she was always active. “I grew up before the Internet and screen time was a thing; we were just outside all of the time. My dad played baseball so there was always a game going on in the field near our house.” Today, she belongs to the local YMCA, but hasn’t exercised as much as she would like as she recuperates from a broken wrist, but she knows she will get back to it soon. “I love group exercise for the social aspects; my fellow exercisers are my friends, even if I never see them outside of the gym.” She loved riding a bicycle, but she gave that up 3 years ago (at the age of 86), because she didn’t feel “safe” on the bike any longer.

Elizabeth worries for many older adults who live on a fixed income and can’t afford healthy foods. Indeed, food insecurity, the lack of money to buy food, is estimated to affect 5 million older adults in the U.S. Elizabeth admits she is a “worrier,” but she is learning to relax and urges everyone to “enjoy their life.”

I am sure that Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday in February, surrounded by her children and 5 grandchildren and will be setting her next learning goal, while enjoying her life. Thank you for sharing your journey, and keep on inspiring us to be life-long learners.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Genes + Good Health Habits = The Path to Healthy Aging

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray

After high school, Linda stopped competing in gymnastics, but since then has led a physically active lifestyle, including 10-K road races and a handful of marathons. Now at age 56, road races are in her past, but her competitive instincts are still evident: she is fully engaged in a competition against Mother Nature. Linda’s over-arching goal is to look and feel younger than her age, although she knows Mother Nature may have other ideas. Blessed with the right genes and a lifelong commitment to eating well and staying physically active, Linda is happy with the way she looks and feels, but knows that she will have to double down on that commitment as she ages.

There is no doubt that genetics play an important role in how gracefully we age, but our genes are not the only determining factor. Our lifestyle habits also play a critical part in how we look and feel as we grow older. Fortunately, it’s never too late to eat well, move well, and be well, so even if we haven’t paid as close attention to our health and fitness during our first half-century of life, there is still plenty of time and room for improvement.

Linda D
Linda on a 12-mile day hike in Idaho backcountry

The three tips for aging well that have worked for Linda are: 1) get enough sleep every day, 2) eat and drink in moderation (no deprivation, no binging), and, 3) stay physically active.

On those occasions when Linda has gained unwanted fat weight, she sheds the pounds by increasing her daily physical activity—including the time she sets aside for exercise—eliminating snacks, reducing alcohol intake, and eating calorie-controlled meals. All of these changes are simple extensions of Linda’s usual routines, so losing weight never feels like a major life change.

 

Linda rarely sits or naps during the day and is constantly moving around her house, yard, and neighborhood, burning extra calories that aid in long-term weight control. She does not follow a set exercise schedule—although she knows that would be a plus—and she prefers to exercise on her own, opting for the occasional spin or body-pump class with friends. When it comes to exercise, Linda likes the familiarity of a set routine and doesn’t mind repeating the same workout multiple times.

Linda does cardio exercise for heart health and weight control, along with strength exercises to protect her muscle mass and stay toned. For cardio, she enjoys hill walking in the neighborhood or on the treadmill, interspersed with short jogs. When the weather permits, she and her husband like to ride their bikes in the country. Linda has done a 65-miler and would like to retain the stamina to do be able to cycle 20-30 miles without the effort being a major hardship. For strength training, Linda focuses on her arms, back, chest, and core, relying on 15-20 repetitions of relatively light weights (10-20 lb.), moving quickly from one exercise to the next in 20-minute sessions that she tries to accomplish four times each week. Whenever she’s able to keep that schedule, she quickly notices the changes in muscle size and tone.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good health and habits over the years,” Linda said. “Now that I’m in my 50s, it’s time for me to be even more diligent—but not crazily so—about getting enough exercise to keep my strength and muscle mass. I want to continue living an active life and staying strong is so important to that goal. I’m hoping that my understanding the benefits of good eating and exercise, combined with my vanity, will keep me on the right path!”

Dr. Bob Murray and Dr. Chris Rosenbloom are co-authors of Food & Fitness After 50, available in paperback on Kindle edition for E-readers at Amazon

 

Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Moving Well to Be Well

 

Harry final marathon with son in 2013
Harry and son, running the New Orleans Marathon 

Now at age 75, Harry doesn’t run marathons anymore, but after completing 11 marathons, he is still running 5-6 miles four days a week with a longer run thrown in to keep it interesting. He also walks and occasionally cycles. He works fitness into everyday life, like walking the stairs, standing on one leg in checkout lines, and balancing on the curb while walking the dog.

 

Harry, an Associate Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Special Education, started running in his late 30s. “In 1976, I watched the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K run on the 4th of July and was mesmerized by the swishing sounds of the hundreds of runners going past me and I thought I would like to do that next year.” So, with a friend, they began running near his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Slowly, at first, and then progressing to looping around the mountain three times for a total of 15 miles. He ran the Peachtree in 1977 and was a regular participant for many years. Before too long, he was running the annual event with his son. Harry describes running as “cheaper than Prozac!” For him, running was the best stress reliever and it soon became a “positive addiction.” At his peak of running, he was covering 65 miles a week. But, he learned that pounding the pavement takes its toll; he was losing too much weight and had a harder time recovering as he aged. “I wish I had cross trained and taken a more balanced approach to exercise and fitness.”

He discovered a Furman University professor’s book, Run Less, Run Faster, and realized he didn’t have to put in so many miles to be a successful, competitive recreational runner. “The approach outlined by the authors helped me achieve some balance. I enjoy being active, but as I’ve gotten older I think I am smarter about exercise.” Harry started practicing yoga about 5 years ago to help stretch out tight hamstrings. Runners often have tight muscles because they like to run, but stretching, not so much. (As a former runner, I can relate. I just wanted to go out for a run and not bother with the warm-up and cool-down phase!)Harry peachtree city classic 2015

When asked to identify three things that have helped him age well, Harry immediately said “keep moving,” and that is not surprising given his 4 plus decades of running. He is lean and fit, and you wouldn’t guess he is 75 years old. Second, he said he is careful about what he eats. He likes the approach taken in the Blue Zones where exploration of long-lived populations reveals how people eat well, move well, and be well around the world. And, lastly, he has enjoyed learning about the scholarship of aging and wellness. “As a university professor I was entrenched in my own discipline and did not know much about aging and wellness research and the robust body of literature that exists.” He also enjoys reading popular, informative books such as Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate  History. “My grandfather and father died of prostate cancer and I have a much better understanding of how cancer affects my family after reading these books.”

Harry’s advice for those who are sedentary is to start with something within reach, “in hindsight, walking might have been a better choice!” Start slow and set goals to continue to progress. And, remember, “we are all a work in progress.”

Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Having a Plan A and Plan B for a Healthy Life

As a 10-year-old, Samantha loved animals. She had 5 cats and her favorite Walt Disney movies were the ones featuring animals, not princesses. And, she faithfully watched the television show, Wild Kingdom. Her love of animals made her question what she was eating, and she told her mother she was going to be a vegetarian. By the age of 18, she made a deeper commitment and became a strict vegetarian. Today, many years later Samantha remains a strict vegetarian who is mostly vegan.

In her early 20s, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream of singing and acting; a Broadway star-to-be! Like many aspiring entertainers, she needed a Plan B and that led her become a licensed massage therapist, fitness instructor and ultimately to going back to school and getting master of science degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition.

S Heller photoToday, in her 50s, she may not be winning Tony Awards, but she is an entertainer of the educational kind. She hosts a weekly radio program on Sirius XM Doctor Radio and is a frequent health expert on TV. A sought after speaker, Samantha blends her musical talent with her passion for science and medicine by infusing many of her keynote presentations with music and song. “These presentations are not musicals” she says “But the science is accented with popular music and humor which adds a whole other dimension, facilitates learning and retention and is fun.” (For example, see her at work in the fusion of science and song.)

Let’s back up a bit…after Samantha completed school and became a registered dietitian nutritionist, she started counseling patients with medical conditions at NYU Langone Health. Though Samantha is a vegetarian, the nutrition advice and medical nutrition therapy she provides her patients is always evidence based. She understands the importance of meeting people where they are and working with them to optimize their health. She learned to listen to her patient’s needs and gently nudge them to a healthier life. If that means eating meat, then she teaches them the healthiest choices and how to moderate portions, while increasing nutrient-rich plants and whole grains.

While working as a clinical dietitian at the medical center, the public relations department tapped her to do local television appearances and her acting chops and her knowledge of health made her a natural. In 2008, Doctor Radio came along, and she has been hosting the show every Friday for the past nine years. “The radio show, which is conducted live every week, has provided an amazing opportunity to work with a variety of health professional from medical doctors to nurses to registered dietitians who otherwise would have no reason to talk to me!” Her goals are simple: provide science-based health information, showcase her guests so they do a great job, and have fun. As a guest on her show several times, I can attest that she meets all of those goals with a 5-star rating.

There are many keys to her success, certainly her performance skills shine through her radio voice, but she doesn’t just talk the talk, she lives it. Samantha exercises most days of the week. She loves running, hiking and walking when the weather cooperates, but in the cold NYC winters, she hits the gym. Just as with her career, she always has a Plan A and Plan B for exercise. “Aim high when it comes to activity; we are not always going to meet the goal, but that just makes you want try harder.” As mentioned earlier, she eats a plant-centered diet for health and enjoyment. “In 2017 it easier to be more plant based than ever before. There are tons of recipes online and many restaurants now have vegetarian and vegan options.”

She also promotes being well by managing stress. “I promote a positive approach to daily life by rewriting the script when bad news intervenes. We can’t avoid stress, but we can manage it by redirecting negative thoughts into proactive, positive responses.” She also encourages her patients and her listeners to “be kind and respectful” to their bodies. “Our body’s job is to keep us alive so use your brain…your mental muscle…to move yourself to good health.”

She knows it isn’t always easy, especially as we age. She sees many of her friends struggling with finances as they age, working 2-3 part-time jobs and worrying about who will care for them when they are old. Many are caretakers for aging parents or loved ones, creating another layer of stress. However, she encourages a proactive approach to good health and optimal aging to be the best we can be at any age.

Samantha may not have ended up on Broadway (but, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a Plan C up her sleeve!), but she has positively impacted the lives of her patients and Doctor Radio listeners. For that I give her the 2017 Food & Fitness After 50 Award!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out my new book (with co-author, Dr. Bob Murray). Available in paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon.

Food & Fitness After 50: Does your food support your fitness?

This post is a summary of a nutrition session I conducted for the Bell Family YMCA in Hartwell, GA on November 14 & 28, 2017.

YMCA photo 11-16-17

Are you doing all you can to achieve your fitness goals with the foods you choose? Before you can answer that question, it is important to step back and ask yourself a couple of things.

First, what is your fitness goal? Is your goal to build muscle or to improve endurance or cardiovascular fitness? Is your goal to lose weight? Or, is your goal to be healthy? I think it is important to clarify your goal, so you know if your food supports your fitness goals.

• For example, if your goal is to build muscle, are you doing progressive, resistance exercise and working your muscle until it is fatigued? If lifting 3-pound weights is no longer a challenge, you might be improving muscle endurance, but you won’t get stronger. And, if you are doing progressive resistance exercise training, are you getting about 30 grams of protein within 2 hours of your workout to feed your muscles with amino acids, the building blocks of protein?
• Is your goal good health? If so, do you know your blood pressure, blood lipids, blood sugar, or bone density? It helps to know your baseline to see if exercise and your food choices are working to meet your health goals.

Second, is your goal realistic? A 70-year-old can be more fit than a 40-year-old, but the odds of having 3% body fat and six-pack at 70 isn’t very realistic. Or, for women, do you compare yourself to the cover of women’s magazines and think you won’t ever reach that ideal? Well, you’re right, because the women on the covers of those magazines are usually photo-shopped, sculpted, and perfected in a digitally enhanced way that isn’t real. So, as we reach our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, let’s get real with our goals.

So, if you do set realistic goals, let’s visit a couple of exercisers to see how they have developed realistic goals, but are sabotaging their goals with their food choices.

“You can’t out exercise a bad diet.” Michael works out at moderate intensity 3-4 times a week; he likes to shoot baskets in the gym, lift weights, and walk on the treadmill, but he can’t lose weight and is actually gaining weight. Because he works out, he thinks he can eat whatever he wants. He eats out a lot. Let’s look at his 3 favorite meals and illustrate how long he would have to work out to burn the calories in those meals:
o Zaxby’s Chicken Finger Platter with sweet tea has 1822 calories. To burn those calories Michael would have to:
 Shoot baskets for 5 hours
 Lift weights for 6 ½ hours
 Walk at 4 mph on the treadmill for 4 ½ hours
o 10 Chicken Wings have 1590 calories, so he needs to:
 Shoot baskets for 4 hours
 Lift weights for 5 ½ hours
 Walk on treadmill for 3 ½ hours
o Waffle House All Star Breakfast with Bacon and Hash browns weighs in at 1500 calories, so he needs to:
 Shoot baskets for than 3 ½ hours
 Lift weights for a little more than 5 hours
 Walk on the treadmill for a little more than 3 ½ hours

You get the picture; his food choices are sabotaging his exercise calorie burning. So, what can he do? The easy answer is to make better choices at his favorite quick service restaurants. Nutrition information is available online, so do some homework before you choose. For example, at Zaxby’s, the Kickin chicken sandwich has 760 calories; the grilled chicken sandwich meal has 900 calories, and a chicken salad sandwich has 620 calories; all lower calorie options than his usual meal. And, if he can’t give up sweet tea; try mixing half sweet and half unsweetened to cut calories in half.

“Muscle needs protein.” Sandra, age 61, is trying to build and tone muscle. She recently adopted a plant-based diet, but she will eat some animal protein, like yogurt and cheese. She does weight training three times a week, but is not seeing much progress. For breakfast she has coffee, a glass of almond milk, and a biscuit; lunch is a green salad with lots of veggies and unsweetened iced tea, and for dinner she eats spaghetti with marinara sauce, a green salad, and garlic bread. For a night time snack, she has a bowl of air-popped popcorn.

Sandra is not getting enough protein to feed her muscles; she needs protein at every meal and she can do that with a plant-based diet, but she isn’t making the right choices.

• For breakfast, her protein intake is practically zero. Almond or other nut milks, like cashew milk, do not have protein unless the protein is added to it, usually using pea or rice protein. She could switch to soy milk to get high quality protein and add a slice of Swiss or cheddar cheese to the biscuit.
• The green salad at lunch is good, but again, no protein. If she added chickpeas or garbanzo beans, chopped nuts, and sunflower seeds to the salad and added a serving of cottage cheese or 6-ounces of Greek yogurt, she would boost her protein intake.
• For dinner, in keeping with the plant-based theme, Sandra could learn to make a lentil marinara sauce; lentils and beans (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) are higher in protein than other veggies.
• Popcorn is a whole grain and a good snack, but low in protein. To add some protein before bed, she could sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the popcorn or make a fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt or add a scoop of protein powder to a glass of almond milk.

Next time you bemoan the fact that you aren’t meeting your goals, ask yourself if your food choices support your goals. Food and fitness go hand-in-hand! For a good resource on plant-based eating, see registered dietitian nutritionist, “The Plant Powered Dietitian,” Sharon Palmer’s website.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well after 50, check out our new book, Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Be Well by Being Humble and Kind

Perhaps you’ve heard the Tim McGraw hit, “Be Humble and Kind,” and while many of us strive to be both, we often fall short. I know one person who is always humble and kind, and she is so humble, that she will not agree with my assessment, although she is too kind to tell me I am full of it!

At age 71, Tia helps make our community a better place. She is that behind-the-scenes mover and shaker that doesn’t like the spotlight, but she likes to get things done.  Here is a short list of the things she does as a volunteer to make our community be well, and herself be well.

  • Volunteers at the elementary school to mentor children (for 5 years, she did the same at the high school)
  • Organizes a low country boil every year to raise money for our county’s Imagination Library chapter. Dollie Parton started the Imagination Library in 1995 to foster reading in preschool children in her home county in Tennessee. Each enrolled child receives a specially selected book each month. The program was so popular that in 2000 it was expanded to other communities who wanted to partner with the Foundation and provide local support. To date the Foundation has provided over 1 million books to kids in countries around the world. In our little corner, 1,115 children received a book in the month of October. Follow up research shows that the program improves childhood literacy.
  • Serves on the board for the Hart Beat Running Club; an organization that coaches children on how to be physically active through running and competing in local events and prepares those who want to run cross country in middle and high school.
  • Serves on the board and organizes the volunteers for the Clothes Closet, a non-profit group that provides clothes at a discount and then uses the money for a food pantry for elderly adults.
  • As member of our Friends of the Library (our library was the 2016 Library of the Year in the state of Georgia…quite a feat for a small town!), she worked to bring The Piatigorsky Foundation to our community for a yearly classical music concert. The goal of the foundation is to make classical music part of life for communities throughout the U.S. that would not otherwise have the opportunity to hear such amazing performances. Here is Tia with violinist, Qing Li, and pianist, Paolo Andre Gualdi, at the October 10, 2017 concert. Tia at Piatigorsky Foundation concert

On top of all that she spends plenty of time with her husband, Bob, and with her 3 children and 8 grandchildren.

So, it is obvious that Tia stays busy but her physical activity is limited to walking, gardening, and household chores. She has had asthma for 69 years, and while she would love to play tennis or pickleball with her friends, she finds it is hard to do those things “when I can’t breathe!”  She doesn’t complain and she has found alternative ways to be active every day. She eats healthy; lots of fish and chicken and veggies, and doesn’t eat out very often so that when she does eat out, “it is more of a treat than an everyday thing.” She loves to cook and is always trying new recipes and finds an enthusiastic audience for new dishes by her husband.

When asked what challenges she has faced as she has gotten older, she replied, “it is easier, not harder!” What makes it easier? “Sharing life with her husband who shares her love of God, family, food, and exercise!” Losing her father and brother at early ages, makes her live every day as a gift. Her closing words? “Life is just darn good!” The closing verse of Humble and Kind sums up this special friend:

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

(written by Lori McKenna)

For more tips on how to be well after 50 check out Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s book, Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon.