As a retiree, you now have time to pursue the activities and interests you’ve put on hold while you worked and raised a family. You’re looking forward to a happy and healthy future.
But the care and feeding of the over-50 body is a whole different proposition from that of your youthful self. Gone are the days when you could consume calories indiscriminately and slough off exercising for days at a time.
“The main concept as we age is to follow a heart-healthy meal plan and reduce portion sizes as metabolic rate decreases. The only way to combat a decreased metabolic rate is to exercise on a regular basis,’’ said Holly Mlodzinski, registered dietitian and health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital.
“An older body needs fewer calories per day because daily energy needs decrease slowly. A diet low in saturated fats that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, and some cancers. A diet high in protein and low in fat will help combat muscle loss and the accumulation of fat around the midsection that is a natural part of the aging process,’’ Mlodzinski said.
Many retirees are getting the message, added Cherie Bronsky, Health and Wellness director at Sun City, Hilton Head Bronsky says about 3,000 Sun City residents are taking 61 aerobics classes each week at the community
Dr. Timothy Scharold, a board certified geriatrician with an internal medicine and geriatric practice on Hilton Head and in Bluffton, cited three critical components of aging well.
“There is only one fountain of youth I know of, and that is exercise. It lessens premature death, increases overall well-being and can decrease abdominal fat,’’ Scharold said.
“Eat healthy. Every illness I deal with seems to relate at least partially to one’s diet: especially cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Eat less processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates (sugar and flour) and meat high in saturated fats. Eat more natural foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They have vitamins and antioxidants, and the nuts are high in omega-3 oils, which have been found to benefit in slowing the aging process,’’ he said.
Scharold also counsels his patients to think positively, as optimism helps reduce stress.
Mlodzinski suggested retirees check the new color-coded nutrition guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.choosemyplate.gov) for guidance. The guide suggests a diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, which can help reduce constipation caused by a slowing digestive system. Retirees especially need calcium for good bone strength and should make sure they have adequate amounts of vitamin B12, a vitamin crucial to normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and the formation of blood. Sufficient protein is a must to counteract loss of muscle tissue.
Aging bodies lose muscle mass and joint flexibility so it’s important to exercise various muscles for fitness and strength. Combine several activities to build strength and improve cardiovascular health.
“Do it every day and make it fun,’’ Bronsky said.
Eleanor O’Sullivan, a resident of Sun City, was a feature writer and movie critic for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey for 30 years. In addition to this, her first piece in Monthly, she still freelances for general interest and business magazines published in New Jersey.