For many of us in our fifties, there is an increasing emphasis in financial planning so that we have security in our retirement years. While fiscal stability is critical to our well-being in our golden years, it is almost meaningless or "not enough" if we are not improving our focus on our health and wellness after turning the big 5-0.
Because many of us coasted or were inactive during our 30s and 40s with regard to exercise, diet and healthy lifestyle habits, we need to raise the bar as we hit the "back nine" from mere wellness to what I call "better-ness."
Wellness to me is a passive term. It is acceptable for practitioners to use during the annual checkup or the company ("wellness") exam; but for those of us in our 50s, that dream of someday playing with our grandchildren, or traveling in our golden years, or who simply do not want to be hindered by chronic conditions, heart disease or diabetes as we get older ... think BETTER-NESS when doing your fitness planning!
In this spirit, here is my "easy-to-follow" guide to feeling better, which can start with a simple physical fitness routine and making healthy adjustments to your diet.
"Better-ness" Guide for Men and Women >50
- Sleep well every night.
A healthier sleep routine will help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight, while also significantly lowering your risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Optimal sleep patterns have been known to improve lifespan, as well as making you feel better about yourself both mentally and physically every day.
- Get more physical – and do not stop moving!
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)) asserts that adults need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. This means anything that makes your heart beat faster ... so your options are limitless![i] This could be playing with your kids, walking your dog, yard work, cleaning your home, or playing your favorite sport. The more active we become and remain as we get older, the better our quality of life will be in our senior years.
- Raise your workout intensity.
Once you have established a more active lifestyle that includes 150 minutes of weekly aerobic activity, you will have the energy and confidence to increase the intensity of your exercise incrementally. Research indicates that raising the intensity of your workout is exactly what we "mid-lifers" need. In fact, a more rigorous exercise program decreases our risk of stroke and heart disease by 50%.[ii]
- Eat more fruits & vegetables, cut out salt & added sugars, and add more "good fats" to your diet.
A recent study showed that eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily can significantly curb the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer, and hence can reduce the risk of premature death by more than 30%. Even consuming 2.5 servings can lower the risks of cancer (by 4%) and premature death (by 15%).[iv]
- While 10 portions daily seems excessive, think of the amount of sodas & soft drinks, sugary & salty snacks, and "bad fat" LDL cholesterol foods we consume. Replace them with fruits and vegetables!
- Speaking of fats ... stick with the HDL cholesterol or "good fat" foods like avocados, olives, nuts, peanut butter and fatty fish (like salmon or tuna), and you will be reducing the risks of the aforementioned diseases, lowering your blood pressure, lowering/maintaining healthy weight levels and improving brain health.[v]
- Research has shown that a traditional Mediterranean diet consisting of lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, moderate wine consumption and olive oil can increase lifespan while "bettering" the quality of your life.[vi]
- Demand more from your annual checkups.
Get a head-to-toe exam for skin cancer because the risk increases as you get older. People over 50 should ask for a blood test for hepatitis C since they are 5 times more likely to develop this disease.[vii] Moreover, consult with your care provider on gender-specific issues and risks, like testing for prostate cancer for men or breast cancer for women.
- Brush & floss every day.
Preventing inflammation throughout the body is the key to avoiding chronic illnesses, but we often overlook the mouth. A staggering number of Americans have some form of gum disease that – if left untreated – can lead to a host of serious health problems, including Alzheimer's disease and pancreatic cancer.[viii] Brushing two times and flossing once daily, plus 30 seconds of mouthwash in the morning and before bedtime is the best preventive dental care money can buy.
- Exercise that brain muscle!
While physical exercise and a healthy diet can greatly improve brain health, you should also do brain-specific workouts like reading more regularly, trying new things, doing puzzles, quiz games or other "brain teasers," and enjoying the arts. These "mental workouts" will stimulate the mind and ward off dementia, Alzheimer's and other mental conditions that can arise due to inactivity. Limit the amount of time spent in front of the television or other electronics and opt for reading a new book or trying a new mind game.
Like fine wines, people can get better with age. Make better-ness your top priority by continuously improving exercise, diet and lifestyle habits. Watch the quality of your life soar with each moment!