Food & Fitness After 50: What is strength?

strength throughout lifecycle

Quick word association….what pops into your into your mind when you hear the word strength? When I was asked that question the first thing I thought of was muscle strength. But, after being a part of a 2-day Strength Summit, sponsored by The National Cattleman’s Beef Association*, I came away with a much broader definition.

Strength encompasses more than having big muscles and working out with weights. Strength also means mental and cognitive strength that begins, not when we are old, but starting strong from birth through old age. Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician at The Ohio State University, summed it up best; “the platform for strength begins early in life.” And, no we’re not talking about baby weight training; developing cognitive strength requires nutrition and we need many nutrients to build a healthy brain. A balance of vitamins, minerals, fats, and plant and animal bioactive compounds (like lutein and flavonoids) are all needed to promote brain health in infancy and childhood. Helping to build a healthy brain helps develop the basic motor skills that lay the groundwork for physical activity as a child grows.

My focus is on the 50+ population with the tag line of “eat well, move well, and be well.” Strength helps us with all three:

Eating well means eating variety of foods and not chasing the latest fad, like keto or the Carnivore Diet. (Yes, that really is a thing!) What I eat may not be right for you, but I suggest these basic principles for a healthy dietary pattern for adults 50+:

    • Includes a balance of all the energy (calorie) containing nutrients of carbohydrate, protein, and fat
    • Focuses on nutrient-rich foods, meaning that every calorie packs a nutrient-rich punch. A small 3 or 4-ounce serving of lean beef provides more than just 25-grams of protein. It also contains zinc, iron, choline, selenium, and B-vitamins needed for good health and strength. Likewise, a whole orange provides more nutrients, like vitamin C, fiber, and phtyo (plant) nutrients than a glass of orange drink.
    • Concerns for disease-risk. As we age, we are more likely to develop issues with bone health, joint health, and cardiovascular diseases. Eating more fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, lean protein, and healthy fats can help keep diseases in check.
    • Enjoying foods and mealtimes. I’ve said it before, but too many people fear food and have lost their enjoyment of good food eaten in a relaxed setting with family or friends.
  • Moving well means focusing on exercise that gets your heart beating faster, your breathing getting deeper, and challenging your muscles to stay strong. Your heart is a muscle so think of aerobic exercise as a good workout for your heart. And weight training does more than build muscle; it helps develop muscle strength, so we can remain functionally fit. For me functional fitness means living independently, being able to lift a 50-pound bag of dog food into my shopping cart, transfer it to the car, take it out of the car, and move it into a storage container. All that requires strength!
  • Being well means strength for resilience that we need as we age. We all know that challenges will occur as we age; we lose loved ones, we get joint replacements, we act as caretakers for family and friends and that all takes mental (and physical strength).

Besides hearing from top experts in the field of strength, we also were inspired by Lance Pekus, The Cowboy Ninja. If you are a fan of the Ninja Warrior competition you will recognize the name, if not, check out Lance and his unique training style!

We were asked to think of a letter in the word STRENGTH and come up with a word that represented our thoughts on strength. Mine was the letter T and word was toughness. What would your word be?

Strength

*The Strength Summit: The Role of Strength in Optimal Health and Well-Being was funded through the Beef Checkoff by Beef Farmers and Ranchers. I participated in a panel discussion on strength in older adults and my travel was paid for. However, I was not asked or compensated to write this post.

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

Food & Fitness After 50: Happy Healthy Aging Month

healthy_aging_monthSeptember is Healthy Aging Month and Dr. Bob and I wish everyone a happy, healthy September! Since we published Food & Fitness After 50 we have posted a weekly blog, Fit to Eat, and we have interviewed over thirty inspiring adults, ranging in age from 55 to 90! They live as far away as Australia and as close to home as our own backyards of of Hartwell, Georgia or Chicago, Illinois. (We hope you like our posts and if you haven’t already followed our blog, please do but clicking on the Fit to Eat link!)

Today, we are taking a short trip down memory lane to mine the advice and wisdom of the folks interviewed for Fit to Eat. Like our book, we’re capturing the ideas in three buckets: Eat well, Move well, and Be well.

Eat well

Three themes came through from our 50+ folks on eating well. First, no one adhered to a rigid plan or fad-diet-of -month. No Paleo, no Keto, and no CICO or IIFYM plans. One person experimented with intermittent fasting, but the key word for everyone is balance.

Bob bike 2
Bob indulging during his bike ride across Iowa

Balance is the ability to eat and drink anything you want, in moderation. Of course, you have to know what moderation is; eating a basket of fried chicken wings with a half dozen beers every Friday night is not moderation! It is OK to indulge once in a while, like Bob did on his 7-day bike trek across Iowa riding about 65-miles a day, but you can’t over eat everyday and claim you are eating well.

A second theme that emerges is eating for health, that is, enjoying a wide variety of healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, and dairy. Some focused on plant-based vegetarian diets, but most didn’t limit a particular food or eliminate an entire food group, like grains. Eating a variety of foods is smart because you are more likely to get all of the nutrients you need to support optimal aging.

Lastly, everyone we spoke to did not fear their food! They know that eating is not only biologically necessary, but one of life’s pleasures. They are conscious of limiting sugar and saturated fat and excess alcohol, but they love sharing meals with family and friends over social occasions.

Move Well

Buddy
Chris walking Buddy but sometimes Buddy walks Chris

Everyone we talked to was active in their own way. Some loved pickleball and others used their fists and feet from boxing to Bollywood dancing. And, me, I love group exercise classes and walking my dogs while Bob prefers individual activities and doesn’t own a dog.

So, bottom line, find something you like to do and do it. Make it challenging…get your heart rate pumping a bit harder, your breathing a bit labored, and fatigue your muscles when you lift weights. As Sally says, “no challenge, no change.”

Exercise brings intrinsic joy, but it helps to have a mentor to encourage you or a buddy who will meet you at 5:15 am every morning for a run before work. So, make it fun and make it your own and be consistent!

Be Well

We all know that eating well and moving well are only part of the equation for optimal aging. To be well we need resilience; probably the most important trait to healthy aging. Because as we age, stuff is going to happen; we lose loved ones, we get injured, we experience chronic health problems, we get joints replaced…but, through it all we need to see the positive and bounce back from set backs. Everyone we  talked to had experienced some challenges but they all recognized the issue and moved on.

Social support is also important for being well; whether family or friends, community or religious institution, everyone valued social support for optimal aging. Book clubs, health clubs, Friday morning breakfast with the guys or gals, or developing a social club for Single Outstanding Ladies Offering Support (SOLOS), anything that keeps us connected helps us to be well.

Lastly, a thirst for lifelong leaning, as typified by Elizabeth, who at 90 seeks out opportunities to learn something new every day.

SCAN symposium
Chris & Bob

We hope you take every day this month (and every month!) to be healthy. For more practical intel on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 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: A Healthy Mindset Can Provide Big Rewards

Bonne, now in her mid-70s, is a California gal at heart, even though she now lives in the southeastern U.S. Born and raised in California, Bonne embraced the west coast fitness movement in the 1960s and 1970s to keep her body and her health in the best possible shape. Californians were ahead of the curve on the fitness trends; she was fit even before Jane Fonda’s call to action with her workout video in the early 1980s. (We all remember Jane’s workout videos!) “Living in southern California was synonymous with looking good, and eating and exercise were a very important part of my life.” Bonne worked full-time as a market research consultant and raised a family, but always found time to be active and eat well. She eats a plant-centered diet, but eats small portions of meat. She enjoys a variety of different cultural cuisines: Indian, Mexican, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Italian are all favorites. She cites the diversity of bold flavors as a big reason to break out of the typical American diet rut. She is careful to reduce sugar intake and eats a variety of foods to reduce inflammation (Foods that fight inflammation). Bonne makes her own special beverage of ginger water. (Bonne’s recipe: Cut fresh ginger and simmer in water with stevia leaves, strain, and add to sparkling water for refreshing drink because “water is a great beverage, but it gets boring.”)

As she has aged, she realized that she had to change her activities from high impact sports, like skiing, tennis and running, to low impact workouts. Now she plays golf (quite well; being named the “most improved 9-hole golfer” at her golf club), is an avid gardener and practices yoga and tai chi. Over 500 clinical research trials and 100 systematic reviews have been published on the health benefits of tai chi. For aging adults, the benefits include improving balance, reducing falls, strengthening the lower body, reducing osteoarthritis pain, and improving cognitive function (Health benefits of Tai Chi.)

Bonne yoga
Bonne practicing yoga (photo courtesy of Al Olsen)

 

Bonne says her mindset about activity never changed, she occasionally “strayed” but in the back of her mind she knew she had to “eat properly and move.” She takes a holistic approach to her health and encourages her friends to do the same with a gentle nudge. Bonne maintains the same weight as her high school days by watching her portion sizes, being active, and having a positive mindset. She recommends that all women know their bone density, blood pressure, blood sugar, and healthy weight range. She also finds time to meditate every day to clear her mind and reduce stress. She is her own health advocate and encourages everyone do the same.

Bonne suggest that adults “visualize where you want to be and set goals to be healthy enough to do them.” Her goal? Traveling and being around to watch her 2 great grandchildren grow.

To learn more about Food & Fitness After 50, visit the Website and you can pre-order Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s book at Amazon pre-order.

Why this dietitian encourages you to eat well, move well, and be well

In a yoga class (or, as instructor Tina Howard calls it, “YoFlex”), we were in a stretching pose on our backs, legs reaching up to the ceiling, and flexing our feet, when we were told to write our favorite age in the air with our outstretched foot. I thought for a brief second before writing sixty-six, my current age. There, I did it, I outed myself! But, although my brain thinks, “wow, 66 sounds old,” I believe that getting old is a privilege that not everyone gets to do. My father died in his early 50s, and we all have family and friends who did not get to enjoy a long life. So, instead of moaning about getting old (I really hate the expression “senior moment”), I hope that you celebrate growing old with grace and don’t chase a fountain of youth. We might want to believe in the power supplements that promise to turn back time, stop memory loss, improve aging skin, retard chronic disease, and achieve world peace (ok, just kidding about that last one), but we all know it is a scam. It is human nature to look for the quick fix, the easy cure, but we all know that what we eat, how much we move, and adopting healthy habits is the only way to age with grace. But, food tastes good and exercise is hard; much easier to think that a pill can fix our ills.

Many of you know that Bob Murray, exercise physiologist and all around good guy who is aging gracefully, and I have a book coming out in October called Food & Fitness After 50 book-front-page(and thanks to our family and friends who have pre-order the book on Amazon! And, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link). We present a lot of real world scenarios from people we have talked to over the years who want to eat well, move well, and be well, but are not always sure how to separate nutrition and exercise fact from fiction. We use their stories to illustrate the book’s content.  And, I am constantly inspired by the 50+ adults in my community and my friends around the country who are living a healthy, active life. Every Tuesday, I will post a conversation with some of these friends and family members who I hope will inspire and continue to motivate you to be the best you can be at every age.

So, watch for their stories (you might recognize a few folks) and if you have a burning question about food or fitness for those of us over 50, leave your question here and we will answer it on the website with a personal response, too. Access the question box through this link Question box.

 

Why this dietitian promotes healthful eating and exercise for those over 50

When talking about food and fitness for those over 50, it is the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times. Everyone want to know the ”best” exercise or food to eat to prevent aging. A quick Google search will provide you with many answers, unfortunately most of them are less than science-based and are usually trying to separate you from your money. Let’s be clear: there is no one superfood or exercise that will prevent aging.

That is why, I am excited to launch Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author, exercise book-front-pagephysiologist, Bob Murray. The book will be published later this year. While there might not be a “best” exercise or food, that doesn’t mean that food and fitness are unimportant as we age. You can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45 by eating well and starting (or increasing) your physical activity. This is important because so many of us are living longer. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011 and by 2029 when all boomers will be 65, more than 20% of the population will be over 65. Why is 65 an important number? Because people reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of 19.3 years (20.5 years for women and 18 years for men). How do you want to spend those 20 years? Do you want to travel, enjoy your favorite physical activities, and be a vibrant person in the lives of your grandchildren and great grandchildren? I am sure that we all want that, so being active and eating healthfully are steps you can take right now to increase your odds of being healthy into your later years.

Just this week, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article on nutrition controversies in preventing heart and blood vessel disease. The article can be found here  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172?_ga=1.183783078.1620905078.1488293025 and here is an easy to guide to see their recommendations.

f1-large

While their article focused on heart disease, our book covers many healthful eating patterns to keep your heart, bones, joints, blood sugar, blood pressure, and brain healthy. Remember there isn’t one “best” eating plan. So, we feature four plans that we think most older adults will find fit their lifestyle and their enjoyment of foods:

  • The DASH eating plan (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • The Flexitarian plan
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean- ASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)

We also dive into exercise for endurance, strength, agility, balance, and functional fitness. Keeping our heart and lungs strong, halting muscle loss, and keeping agile all contributes to functional fitness….the ability to do the things you did when you were younger without a second thought. I want to be able to lift my suitcase in the overhead bin when I travel and pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food, all examples of functional fitness. Age-related muscle loss usually starts at about age 40. We can lose 10-15% of muscle mass and muscle strength every decade if we don’t engage in progressive, resistance exercise.

We hope that our book can help those over 50 learn to separate usual aging from the disuse of a sedentary lifestyle and sort out the fact from fiction about foods. Please visit our webpage to learn more about the book and leave us a question that you might see featured in an upcoming blog post. Web page for Food & Fitness After 50

 

 

 

 

Citicoline and Brain Health

My husband is concerned about his brain. He exercises, is lean, and eats right, but increasingly he says he has a hard time remembering the right word or clearly articulating his thoughts. So, when I attended a lecture by Drs. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and Perry Renshaw from The Brain Institute of the University of Utah on the brain health benefits of the dietary supplement, CognizinÒ citicoline, I was intrigued. (The session was sponsored by Kyowa Hakko, USA (http://kyowa-usa.com/), a global manufacturer of compounds used in dietary supplements and CognizinÒ brand citicoline).

After the conference I did some research by starting with Natural Medicines and then doing a literature search through Pub Med (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) to learn more about citicoline. I also contacted Dr. Yurgelun-Todd about her research on citicoline, as she has been studying it for over a decade. I found that citicoline was originally used as a treatment for individuals who had a stroke.  It is estimated that 2 million brain cells die every minute after a stroke so early treatment is essential to preserve the brain and maintain normal function. In a recent review of citicoline used in stroke patients, it was found that citicoline was safe to use and had beneficial effects on recovery, especially in older patients (>70 yrs) who had no other treatments. One study found that when citicoline was given to stroke patients within 3 hours, they were more likely to have complete recovery compared to those who got a placebo. Not all studies find such great results, but overall the evidence of a positive improvement in brain function after a stroke is well founded.

Food is not a good source of citicoline; only a small amount is found in organ meats. When citicoline is taken orally (in a pill) it is broken down into a B-vitamin, choline, and cytidine which is further metabolized into a compound called uridine. Both choline and uridine can cross the blood brain barrier and once in the brain, they can be converted back to citicoline, sometimes referred to as CDP-choline. Within the brain citicoline has several actions. First, it helps stimulate the production of cell membranes. Second, citicoline increases the production of the neurotransmitters which have been shown to increase attention, focus and memory.

Research on citicoline for other disorders where cognitive abilities are affected is scant, but promising. Researchers can’t yet say that citicoline will improve memory or cognition in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, Bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease or traumatic brain injury, but stay tuned as more research is conducted in these areas.
I asked Dr. Yurgelun-Todd what she would say about healthy 50+ adults taking citicoline and she said that there is some good evidence to support the use of the supplement on improved focus and sustained attention. Her studies have used doses ranging from 250-4000 mg/day but she says a dose of 250-500 mg/day is effective and well-tolerated.

What about my husband? He has been taking citicoline for a couple of months (250 mg twice a day) and notices an improvement in word finding and clarity in conversations. He said he sometimes had to “think in pictures” when telling a story, but now he thinks he has better mental clarity. Of course, this is anecdotal. As for his memory, well, he still leaves the house without his wallet and phone and can’t find the milk in the refrigerator, but he feels it has helped him and that is a good thing.

 

Guilt-free snacks?

Snacks
The email caught my eye…”guilt-free snacks for healthy habits.” Sounded like something I would be interested in and it had all of the buzz words for today’s consumer: “pure, natural, real, organic, gluten-free, and straight from nature.”  Well, that last one is a lie because no processed snack food comes “straight from nature.” I’ve never seen a chocolate hazelnut brownie coconut butter tree or a dark chocolate Brazil nut bush.

Never mind that, snacking is big business and many of us graze all day long, forgoing meals for snacks. So, how did these 3 “guilt-free” snacks fare on closer look? Spoiler alert….not so good.

For those of us 50+ adults, snacks should be nutrient-rich but not calorie-rich. Even for the most active among us, calories count and I’ve seen many older adults sabotage their weight and fitness goals by consuming too many “healthy” snacks. Snacks have calories and to avoid the weight creep of aging we have to be mindful of calories from all snacks. Let’s take a closer look at these so-called “guilt-free snacks.”

  • Dark chocolate Brazil nuts. A 4-oz bag sells for $6.00 with 5 servings/bag. Each serving has 230 calories, 18 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 12 g sugar, and 3 g protein. Let’s face it, how many of you can stop at one serving? A pretty pricey snack, loaded with calories, fat and sugar and not much protein to promote satiety…that feeling of fullness that keeps you from eating more a few hours later.
  • Chocolate hazelnut brownie coconut butter. This one costs $13.33 for a 12-oz jar. Two tablespoons comes with 220 calories, 20g fat and 3 g protein. Coconut butter is all the rage and we can debate the health aspects of it another time, but as a snack it packs a calorie and fat wallop.
  • Crunch cluster almonds. A one-oz serving will set you back 160 calories and 13 g fat with only 5 g protein. And, a 9-oz bag costs $6.32.

To me, a guilt-free snack is affordable and delivers on nutrition and taste. Snacks that are much (much!) less expensive and more (more!) nutrient-rich include plain Greek yogurt (100 calories and 18 g protein) mixed with your favorite seasonal fruit or try cottage cheese (1/2 cup has 90 calories and 13 g protein) with a few whole grain crackers. If you like a creamy, cheesy snack, try a portion-controlled wedge (like The Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges with only 35 calories per wedge) on crisp apple slices.

Don’t be fooled by the health-halo surrounding “guilt-free” snacks. Eat nourishing, healthy snacks without the high price tag. I’ll bet you have some in your fridge right now!

 

Hydration Tips for Active Older Adults

As the temperatures soar, active 50+ exercisers (myself included!) need to pay special attention to hydration. There are some who say that thirst should be your only guide for hydration, but that advice could be dangerous as we age. When older adults exercise, especially in hot and humid climates, they have a diminished sensation of thirst. And we know that “normal” thirst kicks in after you are already thirsty so waiting for thirst may lead to heat illnesses.

Aging also brings about other changes in normal physiology that contribute to dehydration. Our sweat rate changes, our kidneys change the way they handle fluids and electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, and there is an altered blood flow response. All of these normal age changes mean that we need to be aware of hydration and adopt strategies to keep us hydrated during the physiological stress of exercise.

In addition, many 50+ take medications that contribute to loss of body water. Chief among the drugs are common blood pressure medications that act as diuretics which can increase water loss. When you add in other common drugs, caffeine and alcohol, both which are mild diuretics, hydration becomes even more important.

How do you know if you are dehydrated? This question is of great interest to researchers and unfortunately there is no single, easy test to assess hydration. Until there is an easy reliable and valid test, the best strategy is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every pound loss, drink 16-24 ounces for every pound loss during exercise. If you gain weight after exercise that means you are most likely overhydrated, but a loss of 1 pound or less means you are doing pretty well at hydrating. Another way to assess hydration is by monitoring urine volume and color. A dark colored urine usually means you are dehydrated (although some dietary supplements like vitamins with a high concentration of riboflavin can cause a bright colored urine) as well as infrequent urination.

Here are some tips to keep you hydrated:

  • Monitor body weight before and after exercise to gauge fluid loss
  • Monitor urine volume and color
  • Drink fluids before activity and during activity when exercising in hot, humid environments
  • Replace fluids after exercise
  • Eat foods with high water content (fruits and vegetables)
  • Consume fluids with meal
  • Use sport drinks if you are a heavy sweater and/or a salty sweater; if watching calories, try the “light” verisons that provide some carbohydrate but with the same electrolyte content as the regular sport drinks.