Healthy Aging: Why Your Middle-Age Diet is Important

September 30, 2013

When you turn 50, you have a lot to celebrate???you???re half a century old! You’ve made it this far unscathed, so you may ask yourself, ???What???s the point in changing my health habits now? I’ve already sealed my fate; it’s too late to reverse any disease that???s coming my way now.???

But this way of thinking is false. You can make a change in your health habits and better your future at any time. In fact, new research shows your middle age is an optimal time to make a change in your lifestyle.

The study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, examined differences in aging between middle-aged men and women who followed a Western diet, higher in sweets and fried foods, and those who followed an alternative healthy eating diet over a 16-year period.

After 16 years, the study participants were placed in one of the following categories:

1. Ideal aging (free of chronic conditions, and high performance in mental, physical, and cognitive functioning tests)
2. Non-fatal cardiovascular event
3. Cardiovascular death
4. Non-cardiovascular death
5. Normal aging

Not surprisingly, those who did not follow the alternative healthy eating diet had a higher risk of cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular death and those who followed the healthy eating diet were more likely to fall into the ideal aging category. More interesting though, were the results of those who followed a typical Western or American diet (consumed many refined grains, sweet foods, processed foods, red meat, and high-fat dairy products). These people had the lowest odds of ideal aging.

We are not all lucky enough to age flawlessly, but luck isn’t the only factor that comes into the equation. Instead of resigning yourself to your old habits, celebrate your middle age by making room for new ones.

Switch to low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Full-fat dairy products add a significant amount of additional fat and calories. Non-fat dairy products are best, but if you can???t stand the taste, switch to 2 percent milk and reduced-fat yogurt and cheeses. You will barely taste the difference, but you will be doing your health a lot of good.

Move more. I can???t stress this enough. Most of us are chained to our desks for hours on end. Make exercise a priority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Take short, 10-minute walking breaks throughout the day, and you will reach your excise minimum easily.

Limit red meat. Studies show red meat increases your risk for heart disease. It???s OK to indulge once in a while, but save it for special occasions. Get your protein from leaner sources like chicken, fish, and other seafood.

Switch from refined grains to whole grains. While the calorie count in whole grains and refined grains is the same, you miss out on essential nutrients when you eat refined carbohydrates. Switching to whole grains ups your fiber intake as well as other essential vitamins and minerals and reduces the risk of many chronic diseases like stroke and diabetes.

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