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5 healthy habits to keep you strong and active longer

Posted August 12, 2021 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office

The big 5-0 celebration is over. The cake has been eaten, the gifts put away and the thank-you notes sent. Now what? It’s time to take a proactive role in your health, if you haven’t already. 

A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong pursuit, but after 50, it’s even more important to maintain healthy habits to keep you strong and active longer, while maintaining a good quality of life as you age.

After 50, your risk increases for cancer and chronic illness, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). In fact, chronic illness is the leading cause of death for older adults in the United States, according to the National Council on Aging 

So, don’t let getting older mean a decline in your health. Follow SummaCare’s 5 tips to staying healthy well into your 50s. It’s your ticket to living longer and better after 50, while also helping to slow down the aging process.

Get heart smart

Your heart ages along with you. It can grow larger and your blood vessels and arteries can stiffen as you age, which causes your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body.

Because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, make sure you monitor your vital heart health numbers such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol.

Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Make sure your diet is chock full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Lean meats, such as poultry, fish, beans and eggs, are great sources of protein.

Replace saturated fats from red meat, butter and fried fast foods with healthy fats from salmon, nuts and seeds. These healthy fats are beneficial for your heart and brain because they lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Also, be sure to limit your intake of sodium, which can drive up blood pressure, and sugar, which increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The average adult should aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day, and ideally, only about 200 calories of your daily 2,000-calorie diet should come from sugar.

Stay active

Regular exercise is the best way to improve your heart health, maintain weight, and increase muscle strength, flexibility and balance. It also keeps your brain sharp and lowers your risk for dementia by boosting blood flow to the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.

Aerobic exercises like walking, biking or swimming — even gardening, dancing and cleaning — can help strengthen muscles, joints and bones, while getting the heart pumping. Strength training is also important to build muscle and maintain bone health after 50.

If you’re a runner or active in sports, you might have to adjust your routine to avoid injuries as you age, but it doesn’t mean you have to abandon these favorite exercises.

Focus on bone health

As we age, we tend to lose more bone mass than our bodies form — and the rate at which we lose bone mass speeds up once we hit middle age. To keep those bones strong, make sure to:

  • Get enough calcium. It’s best to get calcium through foods, such as almonds, broccoli, salmon and, of course, low-fat dairy. But, supplements are your next best thing.
  • Get enough vitamin D, which is important to help your body absorb calcium. Fortified foods, like cereals, egg yolks and salmon are good sources, as is spending a few minutes in the sun each week.
  • Incorporate strength training. Lifting weights, whether it’s dumbbells or body weight, helps to keep muscles and bones strong. To support stronger muscles, your bones must adapt by building more cells and as a result become stronger.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking excessive alcohol.
  • Sleep Sounder

    A good night’s rest contributes to a healthy heart, better weight control, balanced blood sugar, improved mood, decreased stress and the list of benefits goes on and on.

    The older you get, it might be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, but you still need the same amount of hours. Aim for seven to nine hours each night. If you have problems sleeping at night, catch up on your rest during the day with a nap. Improving your sleeping habits, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, may help you get a restful night’s sleep.

    Aging is a part of life, but following some basic healthy habits can help you age gracefully and enjoy the benefits of being older. You’re never too old to adopt healthy habits, so why not start today?






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