As founding editor of the New York Times magazine WELL Tara Parker-Pope has well considered views about ageing and wellbeing.
Eat well to age well
Small changes in your eating habits can lower your risk for many of the diseases associated with ageing.
Don’t go on crash diets but aim for realistic reductions as studies have indicated that losing just 5 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Similarly, you can improve the metabolic function in liver, fat and muscle tissue.
Geriatricians (medical specialists for 65+ yr olds) advise this age-group should eat 60grams of protein per day. They advise the body takes longer as we age to break down and absorb food (i.e. metabolise food) thus to get the most benefit from protein spread it out eating 20grams at each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Tasty though they might be some processed meats that have been salted, cured or smoked—such as some sausages, salami, and the like—aren’t good for heart health or those on the borderline of diabetes.
Colour-full fruit and vegetables are another winning addition to the diet. Blueberries deliver a 26% lower risk of diabetes. Similarly, other ‘super’ foods such as cherries, spinach or kale, achieve stellar results.
They may be convenient but the best eating strategy for ageing well is to put the brakes on processed food or drink. The likes of junk food or packaged options with lots of ingredients and also preservatives. If you’re hungry opt for natural snacks such as fresh fruit (not dried sweetened fruit) or nuts. Again, in moderation rather than bulk.
Couch time is allowed provided that you’ve put your body in motion sometime during the day.
It may sound intense, but in truth high intensity just means repeating short bursts of ‘all out’ exercise with longer periods of recovery time. Parker-Pope writes that a number of studies have shown that our bodies get more out of interval training compared with slow-and-steady exercise. A study from the venerated Mayo Clinic, of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were randomly assigned to different exercise groups or a control group found that interval training actually led to changes in muscles at the cellular level, essentially reversing the natural decline that occurs with aging.
The typical time frame for work outs of this ilk last less than 15 minutes. That includes a warmup and warm down period.
Chances are you are not seeking to become a body builder (but good luck if you are). Lifting appropriate size weights for your body frame size and your current levels of strength is outstanding for maintaining muscle mass and stronger bones as you age. Lighter routines can still be effective. The key is to grow tired rather than be thwarted after just one lift. The caution is to be guided by a qualified trainer at your local Gym and/or by a physiotherapist.
The internal benefits of an exercise regime are one thing. Making your biggest, and most visible, organ—the skin—look its best is another positive ‘by product’ of putting yourself in motion.
Parker-Pope proposed that after about age 40, most of us begin to experience a thickening of our stratum corneum, the final, protective, outer layer of the epidermis, itself the top layer of your skin. The stratum corneum is the portion of the skin that you see and feel. Composed mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, it gets drier, flakier and denser with age.
At the same time, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, the dermis, begins to thin. It loses cells and elasticity, giving the skin a more translucent and often saggy appearance. These are not the results of your skin’s worst enemy, the sun, but rather what happens with the passage of time.
It appears that after age 40 men and women who exercise regularly had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin with similar results achieved past age 65.