It's a simple recipe for optimal aging: Good nutrition plus regular exercise.
As a woman ages, her body naturally loses muscle -- and body fat accrues more easily. Triggering these changes are alterations in a woman's hormonal balance, says Kathleen M. Zelman, LD, RD, MPH, WebMD's director of nutrition.
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Good nutrition and exercise don't just slow down muscle loss and aid with weight control, they also help a woman guard against heart disease, stroke, a broken hip because of osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, even the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Those risks increase with family history, inactive lifestyle, and eating a poor diet.
3 Good Nutrition and Anti-aging Secrets
The following nutrition tips and anti-aging secrets can help women age gracefully.
Keep weight gain at bay: Cut back on calories, get regular aerobic exercise, and do strength training -- like lifting hand weights. The more muscle the body has, the more calories it can burn, says Zelman. And there's an added bonus: belly fat melts away when you exercise.
Keep bones strong: Get adequate calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical to calcium absorption in your body. While the body can synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure, as the body ages it's less able to process the sun's vitamin D.
Prevent heart disease and more: Enjoy the bounty native to Mediterranean countries -- plenty of seafood, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and olive oil. Red meats are eaten less often and wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts. The good nutrition found in a Mediterranean-style diet is thought to lower heart disease risk, because it is low in calories and fat, especially trans fats and saturated fats.
9 Healthy Nutrition Basics
Advice on proper eating can be confusing. Here are some basic tips for good nutrition:
Take a daily multivitamin for your age group. These will compensate for gaps in your nutrition picture. Women over 50 need less iron than younger women.
Boost calcium and vitamin D. That means three to four 8-ounce servings of low-fat dairy every day. If you are lactose intolerant, try hard cheese, yogurt, fortified products like orange juice, canned salmon, broccoli, and legumes. Take 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily if you are not getting adequate calcium in your diet.
Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes. These will give you plenty of disease-fighting antioxidants, more fiber, and less sodium.
Get enough fiber. Whole-wheat pasta, cereals, and breads, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, and fresh fruits and vegetables all are high in fiber.
Eat the right proteins. Get a balance of lean protein (like skinless chicken), fatty fish like salmon (with omega-3 fats), and vegetable protein.
Enjoy a vegetarian meal a few times a week. A plant-based diet is low-calorie and dense in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Cut salt intake. Too much salt is linked to high blood pressure.
Choose fats wisely. And keep them to a minimum. Avoid trans and saturated fats, like those found in butter, margarine, salad dressing, fried foods, snack foods, and sweets. "Good fats" include many vegetable oils like olive oil, some nuts, and fish, such as salmon and tuna.
Curb the sweets. Limit the soft drinks, sugar, and sweets; they can be loaded with calories and have little nutrition.
Want to do your part to keep your body vibrant, strong, and healthy? Make these simple steps for good nutrition a part of your life as you age.