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Diet and exercise are vital to living an active, healthy life. As you age, your needs change. Take these steps to get what you need at this stage in your life.

Eat Well

A healthy diet with the right nutrients helps your bones and muscles stay strong while staving off health problems. A few tweaks to your diet can deliver what you need.

Bump up your calcium: Calcium helps your bones stay strong to ward off osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods and drinks every day. Try dark green, leafy vegetables, canned fish, fortified cereal, milk, and fortified fruit juices or plant beverages.

If you have trouble getting enough calcium in your diet, try a supplement. Be sure it has vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.

Get more fiber: Fiber helps you stay regular and wards off constipation. It also lowers your odds of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer, and it lowers your blood cholesterol level.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and beans and peas. Men need about 30 grams of fiber a day. Women need about 21 grams.

Boost your protein: Protein helps preserve muscle tissue. Women need about 46 grams a day. Men need about 56 grams. Good sources are low-fat milk, meat, fish, poultry, cooked dried beans, and yogurt.

Cut the salt: Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Eat fresh, low-salt foods. Don’t add salt when you cook. Instead, use herbs and spices for flavor.

Many restaurants use a lot of salt, so cut back on how often you eat out. Prepackaged foods often have added salt, so it’s best to limit how much you eat.

Choose healthy fats: For a healthy heart, avoid saturated and trans fats. Instead, opt for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Try nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, and avocados.

Get more potassium: Bumping up your potassium while lowering your salt may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Good sources of potassium are fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Consider the Mediterranean diet: Try the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grains, good fats, and low-fat dairy products. Studies suggest it lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and dementia. It may also stave off frailty.

Don’t forget beverages: You may feel less thirsty as you age, so you may need to pay more attention to drinking enough liquids every day.

Drink water to stay hydrated and boost your energy. Try fat-free milk and 100% juice. Avoid drinks with added sugar or salt.

Cut back on alcohol: As you get older, your body can’t process it as well. It can dehydrate you, prevent your medications from working the way they should, and lead to other health problems like:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver problems
  • Memory problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

Be creative: If problems with your teeth or gums make it hard to chew fruits, vegetables, or meats, try softer foods with similar nutrients. For example, try low-sodium soups, canned tuna, or unsweetened canned fruits.

Be Smart About Fitness

Staying active helps you remain independent, prevents health problems, and revs your metabolism. Exercise may also improve your strength and balance, give you more energy, boost your mood, and improve your brain function.

First, see your doctor: Talk to your doctor about which types of exercise may be best for you. If you’re starting a new fitness program, clear it with them first.

Get aerobic exercise: Most older adults need about 2½ hours of aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, every week. That’s about 30 minutes on most days. Endurance exercises like walking, dancing, and playing tennis help your breathing, heart rate, and energy.

Stay flexible: Try stretching and yoga. They keep you limber and make it easier to move.

Work on your balance: Things like standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe, or practicing tai chi or yoga can keep you steady and help prevent falls.

Try strength training: It prevents you from losing muscle mass and strengthens your bones. Aim for 2 days a week. Good choices are lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing body weight exercises like pushups and situps. A personal trainer can teach you good form to avoid injury.

Look out for your joints: Choose things that are gentle on your joints, which weaken as you age. Walking, swimming, and biking are good choices to keep your hips and knees working well.

Make adjustments: Even if you can’t move as well as you used to, you can still work out. Swimming is a good option. Water exercise makes it easier for your body to support your weight. It also increases how far you can move your joints (the doctor will call this range of motion).

If it’s hard to stand up, try sitting in a chair and doing upper-body exercises with resistance bands.

If you aren’t active now, take it one step at a time. Start by getting up and out of your chair. The next day, walk down the hall and back. Later, try marching in place. Keep it slow, and get ready to see progress as your body adapts.

Show Sources

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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Exercise and Seniors,” “Healthy Habits at Age 60 and Beyond.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Stay Strong: Four Ways to Beat the Frailty Risk.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health: “Ten Tips for Healthy Aging.”

National Institute on Aging: “Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older.”

American Addiction Centers: “The Invisible Epidemic: Senior Citizens and Alcoholism.”

National Council on Aging: “Exercise Programs That Promote Senior Fitness.”

Elder Care Alliance: “Staying Fit at Any Age.”

University of Wisconsin Health: “Exercise Options for People with Limited Mobility.”