I was glancing through a womens 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) 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.
1. 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.
2. Cut down on alcohol. Longer life is a benefit of men who consume fewer than two drinks a day and women who have fewer than one alcoholic drink a day. (One drink is 4 to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1 ounce of liquor.)
3. Raise 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Put down those M&Ms 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. Replace calorie-rich foods with those that are nutrient-dense.
7. Maintain adequate fluid intake. 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.
8. Get seven or eight hours of sleep. Too little or too much sleep is linked to a shorter life, say sleep experts.
9. Keep up with friends and family. They give sagging spirits a lift and love us even when everything is moving down.
10. Look up at this awesome creation we call life. And smile. Everything looks up when we do.