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Jewish World Review
On Nutrition: Ups and downs of birthdays
I was glancing through a women's magazine and came upon an article that described beauty secrets for women at different decades of life. When I got to my (newest) category, four little words caught my attention: "Everything is moving down."
Great…Then I realized that chronological age (years of age) does not necessarily match physiological age (how we age). In fact, experts have identified a few basic lifestyle behaviors that are extremely beneficial to "healthy aging." And many of them have to do with diet… imagine that.
Eat up to 4 to 5 cups of vegetables each day. Colorful varieties of reds, greens, oranges and yellows contain potent vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that keep the machinery of our cells up and running.
Cut down on alcohol. Longer life is a benefit of men who consume less than 2 drinks a day and women who have less than 1 alcoholic drink a day. (1 drink is 4 to 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer or 1 ounce of liquor.)
Up intake of calcium-rich foods. They have an important role in blood pressure control and may even be beneficial in weight control. And of course low fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese or calcium-enriched non-dairy foods help bones and muscles stand up to the pressures of life.
Keep body weight down. It might help protect your brain, say researchers. For example, a recent study on women ages 65 to 79 found that as body weight goes up, memory scores go down. Good to remember.
Get up and go exercise. Experts say this one behavior has the most influence to prevent or slow down the bodily changes that define what we call "old." Hearts that pump blood during physical activity send nutrients and oxygen up to the brain as well as other body cells. And as flexibility and strength go up, excess weight and blood pressure go down.
Put down those M&M's and pick up that orange. My body requires 5 percent fewer calories - about 100 fewer calories a day - with each advancing decade. Gulp. And even though calorie needs go down, our requirement for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients stays essentially the same as we age. Now is a good time to replace calorie-rich foods with those that are "nutrient-dense."
Stay up with adequate fluids. Even though the formulas to calculate fluid needs have changed, most of us still require a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water every day. And besides water we can count tea, coffee, juice, milk and other beverages as part of the quota.
Down to bed and up and at 'em after 7 or 8 hours. Too little or too much sleep is linked to a shorter life, say sleep experts.
Keep up the good habits. We truly become what we practice each day. And I found this new (and free!) website to track my daily progress (including limits on my M&M 's): www.choosemyplate.gov/SuperTracker
Keep up with friends and family. They give sagging spirits a lift and love us even when "everything is moving down."
Look up. At this awesome creation we call life. And smile. Everything looks up when we do.
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Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
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