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: Nurturing Others…and, Yourself

Do you have a special friend who is a nurturer and a positive presence in your life? If not, I hope you find someone like my friend, Lisa, who elevates people by her outlook on life and being a champion and cheerleader for her friends and family.

In her early 60s, Lisa spent over 20 years in corporate America and now takes time to take care of her 89-year old mother, teach classes at a local college, and focus on nurturing her spirit by getting back into art and photography. Growing up the middle of three children, her mother tagged her as the “artistic” one. Lisa got her first Brownie camera as a child and took it everywhere, capturing people and places she loved. Art took a back seat to her career, but in 1991 when she moved to Chicago, she enrolled in a watercolor class at the Art Institute, where she met her husband, who was into oil painting. (At their wedding, the comparison to “oil and water” was raised!)
Lisa said she asked herself, “if art is my favorite thing to do, yet I don’t do it, how can I say it is my favorite thing?”

Lisa’s artistry and creativity are at their best at gatherings of friends. Many years ago, we met at a friend’s house in Pennsylvania. Hanging on her wall was a painting of a woman who she named “Shirley.” Lisa got the idea to have the five of us draw our version of “Shirley;” we were all pleasantly delighted when she compiled our drawings and framed the print for us. To this day, we call ourselves “The Shirleys,” thanks to Lisa!

The Shirleys

Lisa’s tips for healthy aging include sage advice for all of us. First, she says find your passion and act on it. Years ago, she heard Deepak Chopra  speak and one of the things he said has stayed with her. “Every day ask yourself three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How can I make a difference? The answers don’t have to come right away, but they will come to you.” For Lisa, she isn’t sure what the answers are, but she knows she wants the answers to be the same. Who she is will be someone who makes a difference.

She adds that a physically active life is also important for healthy aging. She enjoys running, walking, and cycling. But, she says, “don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of exercise or don’t reach your goals.” She practices what she calls, “the power of now,” or living in the moment and being present for all of life’s experiences.

Lisa has always eaten well, but she admits she used to exercise so she could eat anything, but now she is more thoughtful about her food choices. Preferring local to support local farmers and protect the community, she shops at Farmer’s markets and grows veggies at home.

Lastly, Lisa doesn’t keep a “to do” list. Instead, she starts each day by thinking, “I’m going to feel great today if I do……” She also celebrates the little things in life and encourages us all to enjoy good news when it comes our way, instead of moving on to the next thing.
Lisa celebrates and elevates her family, her friends, and very importantly, herself.

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

How this Dietitian is Snacking on Super Bowl Sunday

I recently attended a conferchili_012610p10104141ence where both turkey (National Turkey Federation) and beans (Bush Brothers and Company) sponsored scientific sessions. I was not asked to write this post, do not serve as a consultant for either company, nor was I compensated for writing this article.

I am excited for the Atlanta Falcons playing in the big game on Sunday, and with the game comes parties and snacks, lots of snacks.  According to some sources, 49 million cases of beer, 100 million chicken wings, and 139 million avocados (for guacamole, of course) will be purchased in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. But, this year, I’m taking two of my favorite foods in that quintessential football dish to a Super Bowl party…chili. Not just any chili, but one with ground turkey and black beans.

Ground turkey breast is a great canvas for chili as it takes on the flavors from the tomatoes and spices and contributes to texture, taste, and nutrition. Turkey is a great source of lean protein without the excess saturated fat of other popular chili meats. Beans are also a good source of protein with the added benefit of containing soluble fiber. Bean have super powers: as part of a healthful diet, beans can lower blood sugar, blood pressure, blood lipids, and increase satiety (that means you might not look longingly at the platter of wings because you are full and satisfied after eating a bowl of my chili!) Associate professor of nutritional sciences and researcher on the health benefits of beans and peas at the University of Toronto, Dr. John Sievenpiper, is also a staff physician. He sees patients with diabetes and heart disease and those at high risk for developing chronic diseases. He writes prescriptions for his patients to eat a healthful diet (the “portfolio diet”) including beans and peas for the protein and fiber. I wish more doctors would write prescriptions for healthy diets! (For more information on the Portfolio Diet see http://portfoliodietplan.com/ )

Enjoy the chili and the game, and, of course, we will be hoping the Falcons come home with a victory.

Turkey Black Bean Chili (I’m not sure of the origins of this dish, but I’ve been making it for many years)

16-ounces of ground turkey breast

1 medium onion, chopped

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

Dash or red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon salt

2 cans diced tomatoes (I like the diced tomatoes for chili)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen or canned (drained) whole kernel corn

14-ounces unsalted chicken stock

Brown turkey over medium heat and separate into crumbles; cook and stir for about 7 minutes or until turkey is browned. Stir in onion and spices and continuing cooking for a few minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, corn, and stock and bring to a low boil. Transfer to chili to a crock pot and cook on low for several hours or until ready to serve at the Super Bowl party. Top with grated cheddar or jalapeno jack cheese, plain Greek yogurt, and a dash of hot sauce for those who like chili extra spicy.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Food Trends for 2012: Marketing Foods to 50+

Marketers have set their sites on those of us in the 50+ demographic for 2012. Retiring baby boomers want to stay healthy and fit and many new products will be introduced promising better brains, healthier joints, and happier hearts. Leatherhead Food Research notes that glucosamine-fortified foods and beverages for joint health will become increasing available in 2012. The food research group also says to expect more omega-3-fats in foods for cardiovascular and brain health. And, the popular trend of adding the word “natural” to foods and beverages will continue in the New Year.

Sounds great, doesn’t it….but is it really? For years food processors have been adding needed nutrients to food to protect the public health; for example, adding (called fortifying in the food and nutrition world) vitamin D to milk makes sense because (1) milk does not naturally contain vitamin D (even breast feeding mothers have to give infants supplemental vitamin D), and (2) vitamin D is crucial for absorbing the calcium in milk. A more recent example of good, “makes sense” fortification is the addition of calcium to orange juice to increase dietary calcium intake.

However, when it comes to adding glucosamine and chondroitin or omega-3-fatty acids to foods, my response is why? Don’t get me wrong…I think glucosamine is useful for some people with osteoarthritis and omega-3-fatty acids are important for good health, but when added to foods there is usually not enough of the good stuff in the food to justify the cost.

Glucosamine and chondroitin may help rebuild cartilage in damaged joints, especially in the early stages of the disease, and some people report it relieves pain. Here is the catch….you need a lot of the stuff to achieve therapeutic levels and it is very unlikely you will get it in a fortified food. When people ask me about glucosamine and chondroitin as dietary supplements, I suggest they take 1500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1200 milligrams of chondroitin in a divided dose (i.e., 750 milligrams of glucosamine and 600 milligrams of chondroitin twice a day) for about 3 months. If in 3 months there is no improvement of symptoms then it is unlikely that it will work for you.

Same thing goes for omega-3-fatty acids….1000 milligrams (1 gram) may lower heart disease risk but therapeutic doses for triglyceride lowering may be much higher, up to 6 grams per day. And, omega-3 is a general term for a type of fat. What you really want is DHA and EPA and not omega-3s from other sources, like flax seed.

And don’t even get me started on the word “natural.” What is natural is real food; a baked potato is natural, potato chips are not. And no hot dog is ever “natural.” Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration does not approve of the claims natural, all-natural, or pure on a food label.

If you want to stay healthy and active, eating whole foods, cooking your own meals, and choosing a wide variety of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds is the best way to go. If you want to try glucosamine and chondroitin or omega-3-fats, look for high quality supplements (more on that topic in an upcoming article) or naturally occurring omega-3 foods, like salmon and tuna.

Food Trends Recognizing Aging

I was excited to see that one of Mintel’s 2011 “megatrends” is recognition of the demographic shifts and the aging workforce.

http://www.foodnavigator.com/Financial-Industry/Demographic-shifts-to-determine-food-trends-in-2011-Mintel

Today’s food products are geared toward the youth (think energy drinks) but Mintel predicts that more products will be targeting “vitality and health” for those of us who are older. And why not, given that the number of us in the U.S. aged 45 to 64 who will reach 65 over the next 20 years has increased by 31% in the last decade. Baby boomers are more likely to be active, too. The Health Club industry says adults age 55+ comprise a quarter of health club memberships. From 1998 to 2005 those over 55 joined gyms–33% increase from earlier years while the 18 to 34 year old age group showed no increase.

Here is my wish list of products that I would like to see the food industry develop and market to older adults:

  • Half loaf of whole wheat bread (I can never finish a whole loaf of bread and bread just doesn’t freeze well)
  • Sports drinks with lower carbs (4% range) without being sickly sweet with fake sugars (older adults were diluting sports drinks long before sports drink makers came up with “light” versions but those are still too sweet tasting. This reminds me of Dr. Randy Eichner, retired team doc for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, who encouraged Gatorade to make a drink for older adults and call it “Later Gator.”)
  • Lower sodium everything products while at the same time increasing potassium; both nutrients are important for managing blood pressure.
  • Yogurt with more calcium and vitamin D. At a recent food conference I tasted Yoplait yogurt that is being introduced soon and it will have 50% of the daily value for calcium and vitamin D–great job. Most people are surprised to learn that only a a couple of yogurt brands have any vitamin D. And Greek yogurt (which I love) has more protein than regular yogurt, but less calcium and no vitamin D.

We might be “older, lower, and slower” (a slogan used by some master athletes who pole vault at senior games) but we have the financial means to purchase food products that help us stay vital and healthy.