A big part of healthy aging is staying strong and mobile as long as we can, but is slowing the physical effects of aging even possible?
In our minds, we are younger than our actual age and because of this we sometimes take for granted that healthy aging is a given. The reality is that slowly – beginning in our 40s – we all start to lose muscle mass, become less flexible, have less energy and experience achy and stiff joints. Most days we don’t notice it, but occasionally, our bodies remind us that we’re not in fact twenty anymore.
The key to slowing the physical effects of aging is to keep moving, to eat foods that nourish and to limit the bad habits – you know the ones, we got away with them in our youth, but they only speed up aging now that we are older (lack of sleep, water, excessive processed food, smoking).
Understanding the Physical Effects of Aging
What happens to our bodies, as we age
- Our cardiovascular systems become a little more sluggish. Thickening of artery walls leads to less blood pumping through with every heartbeat. The results of this are fatigue, shortness of breath and a gradual reduction in what physical activities the body can manage.
- The lungs are also affected by becoming less stretchy, underutilizing oxygen and therefore leaving you short of breath, as well as more prone to lung related infections.
- Muscles tend to lose their tone and strength, reducing your overall endurance. This makes it harder to engage in any activities that require some level of stamina.
- Bones can become brittle and less dense, as they lose calcium, making you more susceptible to breaks.
- Your metabolism slows down, with less thyroid and pancreatic activity, which means that your body is less able to turn fats and sugars into energy. The results of this can be weight gain and eventually, diabetes.
- Your digestive system also slows down a little, and you can end up with some malabsorption issues. Your body may not absorb all the nutrients it needs from traditional food source. A good example of this is B12: many seniors have a notable lack of it, which can result long term in neurological issues, all because they’re not absorbing enough of it from food sources.
- Finally, your neurological system—your brain—slows some, resulting in slower response and reaction times.
That is a long list but there is a lot you can do to maintain a healthy body for as long as possible, slowing the physical effects of aging.
Slowing the Physical Effects of Aging
If you want to keep your muscles, bones and joints in good working order, you need to keep working them. Exercise is fundamental to good health and no matter your level of mobility, you can participate in some form of physical activity. As always, check in with your doctor before beginning a new routine.
Cardio workouts help to keep your weight in check and your blood flowing adequately. This has benefits for your muscles, your connective tissues, and all of your organs, including your heart and brain. Whether you like swimming, riding a bike, hiking or even brisk walks around the neighbourhood, you need to get your heart rate up to get the benefits of a good cardio workout.
Building up muscle with strength training is also a good way to stave off muscle loss. Muscles can’t atrophy if they’re being used, so light weight and body weight training is a great way to add a little tone and strength.
Stretching and strengthening will help you keep your balance, keep muscles supple and your bones healthier, minimizing the chance of a random fall that could result in a fracture. Yoga is excellent for gaining strength and is a low-impact solution that will help with balance, as well as stretching.
Eat More Protein & B Vitamins
There’s no secret to healthy eating: all you need to do is eat real food. Salts, bad fats, and sugars, preservatives, packaged and processed foods … not real foods.
Choose lean cuts of meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. All are good choices that give you most of what your body needs.
- Proteins and leucine from meat and fish, as well as eggs and to a lesser extent, dairy, are important for muscle retention and repair.
- B12 and B6 rich foods, including beef, tuna, beans and other legumes.
- Omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in fatty fish, like salmon, are heart healthy and important to your overall brain health.
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, such as berries of all kind—blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cranberry—prunes, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, eggplant, and red peppers, to name a few…
Lose Unhealthy Habits
Anytime is a good time to stop smoking, for the good of your lung function, cardiovascular system and your brain. Same goes for excessive alcohol consumption. While many studies show that a glass of red wine here and there won’t hurt and can in fact help, excessive drinking is not the intention! Processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar should also be limited. It’s time to give up the bags of chips!
While you may find that you need less sleep at night, as you age (another normal process), make sure that you are getting enough rest to repair your body and brain from the daily workout that is life. Drinking a lot of water and doing what you can to lower your stress levels—including exercising—are all great ways to maintain healthier habits.
A normal part of aging is malabsorption for certain vitamins and minerals. B12 is a great example. B-12 may help protect you against memory loss, heart disease, stroke and dementia and while we get B12 from meat and fish, studies show that once we reach 50 you may have trouble absorbing it from food due to a decrease in stomach acid. Taking a B12 supplement is one way to ensure you are getting enough of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D and calcium are also very important, to maintain strong bones. This is particularly true for women, who can suffer from a lack of bone density because of naturally occurring changes in our hormones. Post-menopausal women in particular are at risk of losing bone density, and leaving themselves open to fractures and osteoporosis.
Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids can be supplemented as well, if you’re not getting enough of these in your diet.
It’s not always easy to eat enough of certain foods to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need. Protein powders with leucine and added B vitamins, such as Boomer Nutrition ENERGY Protein Powder or NEW Organic Vegan Boomer Nutrition Protein Powder , will help you maintain your muscles, bone density and overall health. Added to a healthy berry smoothie, for a good dose of anti-oxidants and calcium, you’ve got the perfect post-workout snack to repair muscles and give you energy!
Making it easy to PIN this article to your Healthy Aging Pinterest Boards.