By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 4/12/11
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Health can often be seen in the same vain. However, how we choose to live our lives can have profound impact on how we age. Whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s or beyond, eating a balanced diet, not smoking and getting in regular physical activity can all have an impact on how you age.
According to a recent government report Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being, there are an estimated 39 million Americans ages 65 years and older in the United States representing just over 13 percent of the total population. The older population in 2030 is expected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population. Where will you be in 2030, starting a family, sending children off to college or caring for your parents, or, perhaps, entering your retirement years?
Regardless of your stage in life you can start aging gracefully today by using this information to help reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve overall well-being, or minimize the effect of a current health concern:
• ACE The Race to Eye Health: Your eyes are extremely important to almost everything you do – including reading, driving, enjoying the world around you. There is strong evidence that shows that the antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables, such as vitamins A, C, and E, can promote healthy vision. The plant nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin are especially important to promoting eye health. You can find these nutrients in foods like spinach, corn, eggs, and citrus fruits. Certain dietary supplements also contain lutein.
• Mind Your Bones Everyday: Bone health is important at all ages, but it is common to lose bone mass as you age. To maintain bone health as you age, make sure to eat plenty of calcium and vitamin D, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Look for calcium and vitamin D in dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese as well as certain fortified foods and beverages like orange juice, ready-to-eat cereals and dietary supplements.
• High Marks for Heart Health: Fiber and whole grains are both key to promoting heart health. A host of components in whole grains work together to promote health. These include fiber, vitamins, minerals, and hundreds of phytonutrients, such as antioxidants and polyphenols. To reap the benefits, aim for at least 3 daily servings of whole grains such as ready-to-eat cereals, breads, crackers, and pasta containing whole grains (look for the phrase “whole grain” or “whole” before the grain's name), brown rice, oatmeal, barley, popcorn, couscous, wild rice, bulgur, quinoa, and amaranth. Learn more about heart health by viewing the video “Foods for Health: Eating for Heart Health.”
• Muscle Mechanics: Maintaining muscle is particularly important as you age. Older adults who lose muscle in their legs and hips are also more likely to fall and have injuries like broken hips. Fitting in regular exercise is one way to maintain muscle mass as you age. Consuming enough protein from foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, seeds, and dried beans or peas can also support bone health.
To help Americans eat smarter and get active, the Foundation has developed a new video“Foods for Health: Living Well, Living Longer,” produced in partnership with registered dietitian David Grotto, and author of “101 Optimal Life Foods.” The video is the fifth in the Foundation’s “Foods for Health” series featuring David Grotto. Other topics include building healthy kids and families, weight management, and immune health.
What are you doing with your diet and lifestyle today to put you in position for good health tomorrow?