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: Owning a Dog Might be Good for Your Fitness

Thanks to Dr. Bob Murray for writing this post. As a dog-lover and dog-owner (well, I think Samson and Buddy own me!) I can related to the benefits of having a dog. Even when I don’t feel like walking, those pleading doggie eyes get me every time!

woman-walking-dogThat sure is a wishy-washy title.  Why not something more definitive such as “Owning a Dog Makes You More Fit”?  After all, most dog owners can vouch for the increase in their daily physical activity just to care for their pet, including regular walks around the neighborhood.  About half of U.S. households own at least one dog and some studies do suggest that dog owners walk more than non-dog owners and are much more likely to meet the current physical activity recommendations (150 minutes of physical activity each week).  I use the word “suggest” because it is not yet fully clear if dog owners walk more just because they already lead more active lifestyles or if the dog owners studied overestimated the amount of time they actually spend walking their pets.  On a more positive note, other studies report that dog owners are less sedentary because they do move more and sit less during the day.

a-person-walking-a-dogIn theory, dog ownership might help reduce the epidemic of sedentary behavior that increases the risk of all sorts of diseases such as heart diseases, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.  It is clear that increased daily physical activity combats all those nasty outcomes, yet most adult Americans do not come close to getting the recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes each week).

isolated jack russell terrier holding leather leach over white backgroundWe often think of physical activity as something to be scheduled into our days rather than as the total of all the movement we’re able to accomplish during a day.  It’s actually the sum of that movement—day after day—that provides lifelong benefits to health and well-being.  For example, if a person goes to a one-hour daily exercise class, works up a sweat, but is then sedentary the remaining 23 hours, the benefits of that hour of exercise are greatly diminished.  In contrast, there are great benefits for those who are active all day long in one way or another, be it housework, gardening, walking, labor, and so on.  Add to that list taking care of pets, especially dogs.

Motivating people to swap a sedentary lifestyle for an active lifestyle is no easy task.  It’s relatively simple for us to change our habits in the short-term (e.g., joining a gym), but sustained long-term behavior change (e.g., going to the gym regularly) is much more difficult for most people.  And that’s where dog ownership comes in.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that some scientists have put a lot of thought into what motivates us to exercise.  Here’s one recent scientific explanation: “… the multi-action control (M-PAC) framework is a [physical activity] PA-specific model that recognizes reflective processes (e.g., perceived capability) as antecedents of PA intention formation, regulatory processes as key to the translation of intention to behavior (also known as action control), and reflexive processes (e.g., habit) as potential hallmarks of PA maintenance.” (Click here to see the study cited.)

Responsible dog owners recognize their pet’s need for physical activity and that involves daily walks, among other dog-related activities (feeding, petting, grooming, etc.)  Good dog parents develop sustainable, repeatable daily physical activity habits that can last for many years, motivated by the love they feel for their pet and their desire to provide the best care possible to ensure their dog has a long healthspan.

funny-5-miles-dog-walkingOwning a dog is obviously not a sure solution for reducing sedentary time and increasing physical activity time, but being a responsible dog owner does mean that you’ll be taking more walks (and bending over more often) than you did before you owned a dog.  And if those activities add to your daily activity total, you’ll be better off both physically and emotionally.

If your spouse or partner is reluctant to take on the responsibilities of a pet parent, perhaps a convincing argument might be “But honey, owning a puppy will help us both live longer, happier lives and there’s nothing I’d like more than to spend more time with you.”

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

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

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Seafood Nutrition Part 2

Today’s post is Part 2 of Seafood Nutrition, answering your questions on fish. In future posts, I’ll address fish oil supplements and sustainability/environmental concerns that you raised. In the last post, we covered differences between the five types of salmon, omega-3 content of various fish and shellfish, how cooking affects omega-3s, taste comparison between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon, and canned salmon. (If you missed the post, click here to read it.)

Question: Are salmon given dyes to make them pink?

salmonWild-caught salmon get their color from the food they eat, not from artificial dyes. If you’ve ever seen a pink flamingo (the real ones, not the yard ornaments!) they get their color the same way salmon do….from eating plankton rich in compounds called carotenoids. These compounds are broken down in the body to give the flesh a pink to orange to a deep red color, depending on the type and amount of food they consume. (Fun fact, humans who eat loads of carrots or drink a lot of carrot juice can develop a harmless condition called carotenemia…. the outer layer of skin, mostly seen on the palms of the hands, turn orange!)

Farm-raised salmon are fed a diet that mimics what wild-caught salmon eat, including carotenoids. While there is a lingering fear from various media stories that farm-raised salmon are injected with dyes, several news reports have corrected the inaccurate information, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  Click here to read more about setting the record straight.

Question: Does smoking salmon have any impact on the nutritional properties of the fish?

Smoked-Salmon-Header-1-1024x852That is a great question and it led me to ask another question: what is the difference between smoked salmon and lox? My husband loves lox with a good bagel and schmear of cream cheese, but I never thought about the difference between smoked salmon and lox.

I reached out to Tom Sunderland of Trident Seafoods who has over 15 years of experience in the salmon industry. “Lox is related to the German “Lachs,” which is used to describe smoked salmon.”

According to Epicurious Magazine, smoked salmon is cured or brined and then smoked. Nova lox is cold smoked salmon. (Nova gets the name from Nova Scotia, but now Nova just means any cold smoked salmon). And, if salmon is hot-smoked it is called kippers.

As for the nutrition, the primary difference is the sodium. “The sodium levels are a food safety requirement related to packaging under vacuum. The FDA mandates a 3.5% minimum water phase salt level on any non-nitrated product sold in a vacuum pack as a botulism inhibitor (3.0% is the minimum if sodium nitrite is used). The main purpose of sodium nitrite is color retention, but it does have some anti-microbial properties,” says Sunderland. (In a post a few months ago we covered sodium nitrite and what “uncured” means when used in meat, so for a refresher click here.)

According to Food Data Central, the USDA nutrient data base, 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of salmon has about 60 milligrams of sodium whereas smoked salmon and lox ranges from 800-1200 mg of sodium in the same 100-gram portion. Keep in mind that 3.5 ounces is a hefty portion of lox and many people (my husband included, use about an ounce on their bagel.) So, if you’ve been told to keep your sodium intake low to manage blood pressure, go easy on the smoked fish by using a smaller portion.

And, soon I’ll be introduced to gravlax, a Scandinavian cured salmon, when we visit the north lands for an anniversary trip! (Stay tuned for more on that.)

Question: Is Arctic Char as good as salmon?

I assume the question relates to nutrition and not taste, as taste is subjective, but the nutritionals are similar. Arctic char is a member of the Salmonidae family and found in cold-water lakes in the polar regions. “Most Arctic Char is imported from Iceland and Canada,” says  Valerie Agyeman, with Seafood Nutrition Partnership. She says that it has a “delicate texture and mild flavor, similar to trout and is a fattier fish than salmon.” Because of the higher fat content, it has about 1 gram (1000 milligrams) of omega-3s per serving.

For those unfamiliar with this fish, Agyeman says its “flavor appeals to people who enjoy trout but find salmon too strongly flavored.” As for cooking, she says cook char as you would trout. “Fillets and steaks can be broiled or cooked on the grill, while whole fish can be baked or poached. The skin becomes thick and leathery after cooking, so it’s best to remove it before serving. The oil content makes char also a good candidate for smoking.”

Question: Is frozen fish as healthful as fresh fish? Some frozen fish has added phosphates, why?

According to Christine Garvey of Trident Seafoods Corporation, some consumers think fresh fish is the premium offering. “Fresh fish is fantastic when it is truly freshly caught and not over a week old before it is consumed.  Unfortunately, when purchasing fresh fish, it is often impossible to know when that fish was caught and how it was handled through the supply chain. But, when fish is flash frozen at the source, I consider it the best quality fish available, typically frozen within hours of being caught.”

As for the addition of phosphates, “Alaska seafood companies do not use phosphates in processing fish in Alaska,” according the Michael Kohan, of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.  However, phosphates are an approved additive and some markets, such as Asian and Chinese markets, have long transit times to get their seafood to market so phosphates are used to improve the quality of the product. “Phosphates are added to preserve the moisture content of the fish during freezing to preserve freshness. When phosphates are used, they are declared on the label,” says Kohan.  Many people are looking for “clean” labels on foods and think the fewer additives, the better the product. While that is not necessarily true, those who are looking for fish without phosphates can choose Alaskan seafood, processed in Alaska.

Since my trip to Alaska I’ve become hooked on flash frozen wild Alaska Pollock, a cousin to cod with a mild taste and flaky texture. Try it broiled with lemon and thyme and a drizzle of olive oil, pan friend with seasoned panko bread crumbs, or blackened for fish tacos. One fillet (slightly over 4 ounces) has 80 calories and 19 grams of protein and is a great source of omega-3s, so it is a nutrient-rich choice for those over 50 years of age who want to keep calories in check while getting quality protein. And, try a wild Alaska Pollock burger for a change of pace on the summer grill.

 

 

I hope I’ve answered your questions on seafood nutrition, but if not, please let me know if you have lingering questions. Some people say seafood is too expensive, but as Linda Cornish, President of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, put it, “There is a perception that seafood is expensive, but chronic disease is more expensive!” So, take the pledge to start eating seafood twice a week!  Click here for delicious seafood recipes to help you keep the pledge!

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored travel program by Trident Seafoods where I got a deep dive (pun intended) into all things seafood and got introduced to helpful people and resources for evidence-based information on seafood. I was not compensated or asked to write this post. All of the questions came from my readers.

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: A Deep Dive into Water Aerobics

If you are looking for a non-impact activity that provides all the components of fitness…cardiovascular, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility, then water aerobics might be for you. And, bonus points for the cooling water in the pool as a great antidote to summer heat and humidity.

Water Aerobics is not Playing, but it is Fun

Sue Ellen
Suellen leading water aerobics

If you think that those folks in the pool are just playing, think again. “Water aerobics is a full body workout,” says Suellen, who at age 73 teaches classes throughout the summer, sometimes as many as five classes a week. Suellen has been an avid exerciser since the early 1980s when she and her friends donned leotards and did Jazzercise until she found water aerobics. “I’ve had lower back problems since I was a teen and the jarring impact of land-based exercise could make my back issues worse and put me out of commission for over a week,” says Suellen. So, she switched to water-based exercise and liked it so much she became a certified water aerobics instructor. “I never planned to be an instructor, but another instructor encouraged me and a friend to take the YMCA-based training and the rest is history.” The certification “wasn’t easy, but I learned CPR, water fitness, and both classroom and in-the-pool exams made me a competent instructor with more confidence,” says Suellen.

The benefits of water aerobics are many:

  • It promotes gains in muscle strength.“The resistance of the water makes an ideal environment to build muscle and there are many ways to change moves to make them more challenging as strength builds,” notes Suellen.
  • It is beneficial in treating osteoarthritis of knee and hip joints. Many people associate water aerobics with exercise for people with arthritis and for good reason. Your body weight is reduced by about 90% from the buoyancy of the water thereby reducing stress on weight-bearing joints. 
  • It is a welcoming environment for those who have been sedentary, who are overweight, or who have chronic disease. “We have all levels of fitness in a typical water aerobics class from those who are very fit to those who have chronic conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, who find exercise difficult. Suellen always tells her students, to keep three things in mind during any class when they find movement difficult…slow it down, make smaller moves, and substitute an easier move.”
  • Many people choose water aerobics when rehabbing from an injury or surgery. Cathy, a regular in Suellen’s class, told me she was “looking for an exercise class that she could do after she finished physical therapy for knee replacement surgery. I found water aerobics to be of great benefit in strengthening my knee and I think it helped me get back to land-based aerobics more quickly, but I still do water aerobics because I love it!”

ThinkstockPhotos-480904565Suellen says that water aerobics follows the same format as other hour-long aerobics classes, “we start with a warm up of stretching exercises, and then spend most of the time on cardio, followed by a cool down. We use Styrofoam buoys for resistance exercise, and just like weights you use in the gym, these come in different “weights,” so we can increase resistance.”

Can Water Based Exercise Improve Bone Health

Water aerobics can help with bone health but is not as good as land-based exercise to strengthen bone, something Suellen found out when her doctor told her bone density was low. Suellen is working with a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about working with older adults with health issues. (I know this first hand, as I also worked with David when I had hip problems, for more on the benefits of working with a personal trainer, click here.)

Always a Teacher

Water aerobics
Class at YMCA, photo credit Bill Powell

Suellen taught 7th grade math for 29 years before she retired, but she sneaks some math lessons into her water aerobics classes now and then. “I’ll ask them to identify north, east, west, and south while we are in the pool and them ask them how that relates to the numbers on a compass, I guess once a math teacher, always a math teacher!” She loves the reactions she gets from the people who come to her class, “we have several people in their eighties who are regulars and they enjoy the exercise, but they really like the social aspects and the fun of the class.”

Tips for Optimal Aging

When I asked Suellen to identify the top three ways to optimal aging, not surprisingly, her first response was “move, move, move!” “My dad played golf at the age of 94 and moving is what keeps us all going.”

The second tip is to stay socially connected. It could be through an exercise class, volunteer activities, church groups, or as Suellen puts it, “anything that gets people going, gets them up, gets them dressed, and gets them out of the house so they develop a social connection to the place and to the people.” She works at getting to know the people in her class and “making them feel more comfortable about participating and looking forward to coming back is what matters.”

And, lastly, she said, “laughter, having fun and laughing during exercise is so rewarding, we laugh with each other and they laugh at me when I mess up, and that’s OK because it keeps us all laughing, having fun, and moving!”

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

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Consider a Personal Trainer to Reach Your Fitness Goals

“The healthier I eat, the more energy I have for exercise. The more I exercise, the more I want to eat healthier food. For me, one leads to the other.”                                                                                                                                                                          David Leard

As I approached my mid-sixties I wanted to be more fit and kick up my fitness routine. At my local YMCA, the weight room intimated me. Not because I was unfamiliar with weight training, but the equipment was old and a mixture of various manufacturer’s equipment and the adjustments from one machine to the next were confusing*.  And, I’ve never had great core strength, so I decided to hire a personal trainer for a series of 6 lessons to help me meet my fitness goals. It was important to find a trainer who understood how to work with older adults, so I met David and knew I found the best trainer for me. After our training sessions, I asked David to share his journey to healthy aging and gained a lot from our interview. I think you will, too.

What was your career path before you became a personal trainer?

David at YMCAI began my career as an elementary school physical education teacher in my hometown. To earn some extra money, I delivered newspapers and that led to a career shift to newspaper production management with the Anderson(South Carolina) Independent-Mail and Athens (Georgia) Banner Herald. While in my forty’s I earned a second degree from the University of Georgia in Environmental Health Science and began serving as the Environmental Health Manager in the county where I stated as an elementary school teacher.

How did you get into personal training?

I’ve always been interested in fitness and began lifting weights at the age of 13 after watching my older brothers play high school football. I realized that if I wanted to get on the football field, I was going to have to get bigger and stronger. I enjoyed strength exercise so much as a youth, that I’ve continued it throughout adulthood. My wife, Jean, and I found space for a makeshift home gym wherever we’ve lived and used it to strength train. A few years ago, we started exercising at the Bell Family YMCA and really enjoyed the classes and the comradery with the members. While contemplating retirement from full time work, I knew I wanted part-time work to stay physically and mentally active.  Personal training was a natural progression and I like being able to make a difference in people’s lives. I got certified through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) )after about six months of preparation. I went on to earn an additional certification as an orthopedic specialist personal trainer to help meet my client’s needs.

David and Jean kettelbell
David & Jean after Kettlebell class

What do you do to stay active and has it changed as you’ve gotten older? 

Strength training with free weights was always my go-to form of exercising. I enjoyed it and thought it was a fun activity as another person might enjoy a sport like golf or pickle ball. But as I’ve gotten older I don’t care about how much I bench press and I put much more emphasis on my core as way of avoiding injury. When I feel myself pushing too hard, I try to think of “living to exercise another day.” What I do care about is strength training for functional fitness, such as playing with my grandchildren or being able to work in the yard.

What motivates you to stay active?

David TRX
David and daughter doing TRX

My family is my motivation to stay active. I enjoy playing and exercising with my 5 grandchildren ages 6 to 13 years. They are starting to get into exercise and I encourage them to find joy in movement. My wife and I really have fun trying to keep up with our two children and their spouses who are avid exercisers. And, I must stay fit for the never-ending amount of yard work at my house and I’m too cheap to pay a landscaper! I want to continue to be a vibrant husband, father, and grandfather so that my family can count on me in the future.

Do you follow any special diet, or do you have any tips for healthy eating that work for you?

I’ve never counted calories and I enjoy junk food as much as anyone, particularly when my grandchildren visit. But, for the most part I eat healthy and enjoy fruits and salads topped with lean protein. I try to make sure I’m eating some complex carbs for sustained energy. My weakness is sweets and I do allow myself some indulgences. If you look in my freezer you will probably find some chocolate I’ve hidden from myself. I’m very fortunate that my wife enjoys eating healthy foods, so we support and motivate each other to stay focused without any browbeating. I also find a direct correlation to eating well and exercise. The healthier I eat, the more energy I have for exercise. The more I exercise, the more I want to eat healthier food. For me, one leads to the other.

If you had to name 3 things you do to age well, what would they be? 

  • I manage my weight by eating healthy and exercising.
  • I complete all wellness exams with my physician, including recommended vaccinations.
  • I read and do research on the many facets of aging and I listen to health professionals.

What are the biggest challenges to aging well?

I find that many of the clients I work with at the YMCA are fighting through aches or pains, such as arthritis or bursitis, or old injuries that continue to linger. These folks may have gone through a hip or knee replacement or are putting off a needed surgery. Aches and pains can stall or halt any progress an individual has made in their exercise program. I can relate to that as I’ve recently begun to experience arthritis hip pain. Finding ways to work around the pain is a challenge. Most of my clients are my age or older and I am always researching ways to keep these clients moving through or around the difficulties with various exercise modifications. As a Certified Personal Trainer, I’m required to complete continuing education to maintain my certification and I seek out educational opportunities on these types of problems.

Do you have any words of wisdom for others?

That’s a challenging question for me in that I don’t consider myself smart enough to dispense words of wisdom! However, I do a lot of reading and research and I know there is a lot of free information on the internet about exercise, diet, and nutrition. Some of it is good and some not, so I encourage my clients to research the qualifications of the people who are giving free advice. Make sure your information and advice is coming from a qualified health professional.

What do you see in people you train in terms of what they do well and what you wish they would do more?

While all my clients have worked hard at their employment over the years, many haven’t exercised since they were young and are now recognizing the need because they are experiencing problems with basic movements, such as getting up and down from the floor or from the couch. I’m continually impressed with their dedication and willingness to work through the aches and pains and honored to be working with them. Many of my clients told me they regret not having started a regular exercise program earlier. I recommend that just like saving money for retirement, start an exercise program now and stay consistent.

Many of my clients are concerned about their weight. I encourage them to feed their exercise program with proper nutrition.  ChooseMyPlate.gov s a wonderful website full of good information on proper nutrition.

*Recently, the YMCA obtained new “used” equipment and the machines are much nicer and easier to use ! David helped me learn how to use all of the new machines.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: From Meal Makeover Mom to Cannabis Janice

janicewithplantI knew Janice as one half of a dynamic duo who taught families to prepare healthy meals for kids. For 15 years, Meal Makeover Moms developed recipes for busy parents who wanted to provide easy, healthy meals for their families. But, in 2016 Janice’s career took a turn; not a slight turn but a radical shift of reinvention. “It wasn’t a goal to reinvent myself, it was fate!” she says.

Her father was in severe pain from multiple injuries to his spine. The heavy dose of prescription medicine wasn’t controlling the pain very well and it made him groggy. At one of his many appointments, Janice asked the doctor if medical marijuana might help her dad. To her surprise, the doctor responded that he thought it was a good idea. “I don’t know why I even asked about marijuana because I knew very little about it and thought it was something people mostly used to get high.” But, the doctor recommended cannabidiol (CBD) and after 2 puffs from a vape pen, her dad said, “wow, I’m not in pain.” That completely changed both of their lives and Janice was on a mission to learn all she could about the medical benefits of medical marijuana.

Her research led her to the Holistic Cannabis Academy where she studied the benefits of medical cannabis and became an expert on the various forms and delivery methods of cannabis and its derivatives. After completing the course work and passing the exam, “Cannabis Janice” was born. Her website JannabisWellness, provides information on her journey and her services. And, for those of you who want to clear the confusion about cannabis, check out her recent article in the Food & Nutrition Magazine.

janicemachupicchuI was interested in Janice’s personal journey to reinvention and to aging well so I asked her a few questions to share with our 50+ readers.

What did people think when you introduced yourself as “Cannabis Janice?”

It has been an educational experience; some of my colleagues wondered if I was pushing alternative treatments that didn’t have research to support the claims, but that isn’t the case. On my website, I share many research studies conducted around the world on the benefits of cannabis and CBD for relieving pain and reducing inflammation from many chronic diseases. So many older adults suffer with pain and if a plant-based solution could help them, why not use it? It certainly helped my father and improved the quality of his life.

How has the medical community responded to learning about cannabis?

Only 10% of medical school students learn about cannabis and I hope to change that. I’m conducting a Grand Rounds presentation on cannabis for pain management for doctors and pharmacists at a Boston-area hospital and I’m talking about cannabis and CBD for older adults to social workers at a long term care facility. Every state that allows the use of medical marijuana has different laws regulating its use, so it’s important to know what is happening in each state.

“What do you do to stay healthy as you age?”

I eat well but I don’t exclude anything from my diet. Moderation has always been my guiding principle. I’ve always been thin, but as I age some of my weight has shifted to my middle, but I don’t obsess over it. I just had to buy a new pair of bike shorts because my old ones were getting tight! I think we should accept the changes that come with aging and not expect to look the same at sixty as we did at thirty.

What kind of physical activity to you like to do?

I used to run more than I do now, but I still do the occasional 5 or 10K run, but nothing longer. I realized the value of strength training and balance, so I practice yoga and do TRX. I love to hike with my daughter, and I want to keep up with her, and my husband and I like to kayak. I want to be fit and healthy and live a long life, but I am more motivated to exercise to feel food right now!

What three things do you advise for adults to be well as they age?

First, I think it is important to be gentle with ourselves. My point of view is that we should all be thankful for every day because not everyone gets a long life. It is also important to be part of a community. Take time for connecting with people, and not just on social media! Make time for the people you care about. And, lastly, I practice what I preach by taking a low dose (sometimes called micro-dosing) of CBD to reduce inflammation from the aches and pains that come with activity and aging.

Do you think your passion for new career path will remain?

janiceOh, definitely! Being a holistic cannabis practitioner will be my dad’s legacy. I said earlier that I think it was “fate” that led me down this path. When I was born my mother wanted to name me Holly, but dad said I think she should be Janice. Is it a coincidence that Janice rhymes with cannabis and sounds perfect as “Jannabis?” I don’t think so!

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does exercise help lower blood sugar levels?

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

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

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

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

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

Yellow under trees
Author, Jill Weisenberger

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Here are just a few of the reasons:

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

FOMO 

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

Edee truffle hunting
Truffle hunting in France

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

 

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

New challenges and new rules

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

Make a plan to stay connected to loved ones

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

Embrace your community

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

Be aware, be alert, and be active

Edee
Traveling with Edee in Dublin

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

 

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

That is definitely a recipe for healthy aging!

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: No Challenge, No Change

SallyI first met Sally when she was 62 years old and teaching aerobics classes. She described herself as a “retired, healthy woman who lived her profession.” For 30 years she was a high school health and physical education instructor who loved being active. One thing she always used to say that has stuck with me is “no challenge, no change.” She was referring to our physical body, encouraging us to lift the heavier weight, go for a few more repetitions, or pick of the pace to get the heart and lungs moving to reap the benefits of exercise.

A new meaning to “no challenge, no change”

Now, at 66, Sally has learned that “no challenge, no change” can also refer to the physical and mental changes that can occur when least expected. At the age of 60 she had a total hip replacement, and then about 5 years later, her knee started to bother her. She backed off high impact exercise to give the achy joint a rest. During that time, she started feeling some abdominal pain, but didn’t think too much about it. But, as she was preparing for an upcoming trip to Spain, she decided to check it out. The discomfort she was feeling was ovarian cancer. Sally was aware of her risk factors for diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis that run in her family, but the cancer diagnosis took her by surprise.

A new mind set

After surgery and four months of chemotherapy, Sally is dealing with the major life change. “I had to slow down a bit during treatment, but I was as active as a could be, even if that meant a short walk each day.” The hardest part, she says, is “no longer being the healthy one in the family. I had to redefine myself and the reality was hard to accept.” However, Sally now sees this obstacle as a positive. “I never once said, ‘why me,’ instead, I choose to dwell on the positive.” With faith and supportive family and friends, Sally is back to old activates, as well as a few new ones. “I am trying new things, like fly fishing, pickleball, and stand-up paddle boarding.”  She fills in for aerobics instructors when needed, but no longer teaches regular classes, “I don’t want the commitment!” she says with a laugh.

One side effect of the medications and less active lifestyle has been a slight weight gain. Women past the age of 50 can relate to that. Sally found a 12- week on-line program called Bod E Talk, that is described as a weight loss and health program (Note: this is a fee-based program, not a freebie). She has always believed in “moderation and variety” in her food choices, and the on-line program has helped her understand the importance of listening to hunger cues. “We tend to eat when the clock says it is time for meal, instead of paying attention to our hunger.”

Sally’s advice for all of us over 50 is simple, but powerful. “Stay as active as you can, eat foods that nourish and satisfy your body to keep you active, and remember it is all about the choices you make every day that count.”