Two Important Ways to Age Well
September is National healthy aging month. Life is hard and life is long. There are so many unforeseen obstacles that appear during our lives that make it nearly impossible to keep a completely perfect body. Mix that with the natural effects of father time, and it is truly impossible. That being said, the more information, dedication and effort you put into your body, the longer it will keep you kicking. There are so many different health aspects to think about when it comes to aging it is hard to keep up. You have to eat well continuously, you have to exercise, you have to stay socially engaged, you have to stay mentally (educationally) engaged, you have to protect your skin, you have to sleep well, you have to stay in a positive mind set, and ultimately you may be bound by fate or your traits.
Sleep – The most overlooked health attribute of them all
Sleep is being linked with more and more health risks. Over the past decade sleep studies have been correlating sleep deprivation with depression, anxiety, stress, heart disease and poor immune system. Sleep is a fundamental health subject and we need to take it more seriously. As our lives become filled with technology and easy to access media our brains are constantly turned on. It is becoming harder and harder to slow down and get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is the foundation of how every day starts, it sets the pace for your whole day and it should not be ignored. Our society ignores it because we think we can just catch up on sleep over the weekend or we can take a supplement that will give us energy for the day but both of those thought processes are extremely unhealthy. Our brains need routine shut downs and if we do not get that then it effects our overall health. If you constantly sleep poorly, you literally can knock weeks, months or years off your life. It is the silent killer, pay attention to the long-term investment of a great sleep cycle.
Exercise – The most common healthy habit that is done wrong
Exercise in terms of aging well, is right up at the top. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. When it comes to exercise people are treating it like most things: as a short, aggressive plan to lose weight or look great. That is not what exercise is for, unless you are an athlete training for something specific. When it comes to the general population we all need to be training not to look our best but to be our healthiest. Two different things. We want long and strong muscles. This means everybody needs to be warming up before our workouts and stretching afterwards. This is essential for people over 50.
The over 50 group used to be told, make sure you do slow strength training and long cardio exercise routines. This has been debunked by a few reputable university studies. The key to aging well in terms of exercise is… diversification. The body responds to different styles of workouts extremely well. Thus, you should not stick to just long cardio sessions but add in interval training as well. No matter the age (as long as your Dr. gives you the nod) you must be doing some form of high intensity exercise so that your heart is tested (safely). Not only, your heart but your muscles as well, long are the days of 10 reps of a mediocre weighted exercise. It is ok to push your muscles to a heavier weight occasionally, and it is ok to do lighter weight with more reps. To extend your body life you must keep purposefully testing it and giving it new exercise options and whatever you do, stretch after every workout.
Cholesterol Education Month
September is national cholesterol education month, and a good reminder that heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Cholesterol is found in fats (lipids) in our blood. We do need some cholesterol to live, having too much of this in our blood can lead to heart disease. Below are lifestyle changes that can help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL), and increase the good cholesterol (HDL).
Be Mindful of the Fats you Eat:
Eat plenty of Omega 3s: Found in fatty fish (salmon) and ground flaxseeds and chia seeds. These can increase your HDL cholesterol.
Avoid Trans fats: These are in common in packaged foods (popcorn, chips, pastries, cookies) and in many margarines and “unnatural” nut butters. Ideally, these would be avoided since they can increase your bad cholesterol.
Balance with saturated fats. These are found in meat, poultry and dairy products. Recent research suggests these are not as bad as once believed to be. It’s still a good idea to balance your diet by choosing lean cuts of meat.
Limit Added Sugar
Excessive carbohydrates in the diet can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. The first place to start reducing carbs in your diet is with added sugars found in sweetened drinks (sodas, Frappuccino’s, fruit juice), and “junk” food.
Keep sodium to less than 2,400 milligrams/day. The best ways to limit sodium is to dine out less, and check food labels on food that comes in a bag, box or can.
Eat a balanced diet. Eat plenty of vegetables and whole grains to help get enough fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol. (Check out the recipe below, full of veggies and lean protein!)
Get Enough Exercise
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes each week of moderate exercise (walking, water aerobics) or 75 minutes each week of vigorous exercise (running, swimming). Exercise is the best way to increase your HDL or good cholesterol, and can help you maintain or achieve a healthy body weight.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
A health professional such as a doctor or dietitian can help determine what a healthy weight means for you. However, it’s recommended that men maintain a waist at or below 40 inches and women at or below 35 inches to reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
Keep Alcohol within Moderation
This means no more than 2 drinks/day for men and only 1 drink/day for women.
Don’t Smoke Tobacco
This is the number one thing you can do to help prevent heart disease!
Greek Chicken Salad
• 2 cups chopped romaine
• ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes
• ½ cup chopped cucumber
• ¼ cup crumbled feta
• 3 oz. baked chicken breast, sliced
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Top salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and chicken.
• In a small bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour onto salad.
Nutrition: 328 calories, 13 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 14 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 18 protein, 411 mg sodium.
Elise Campbell, RDN, CSSD
Project Wellness Nutritionist & Personal Trainer
The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2017, from