Tag Archives: health over 50

Diet After 50: Food Choices & Exercise Prove Critical

For adults age 50 and over, making healthy food choices and staying active are crucial lifestyle habits. Recent studies show that a good diet can not only help you resist illness and prevent certain diseases, but also defy or delay some of the common effects of aging.

“We need fewer daily calories as we age because our metabolism naturally begins to slow,” says MPCP Arnold physician, Amanda Malone, M.D. “Since you don’t need as many calories, those calories you do consume become very important. Your diet after age 50 should include a variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Add in daily exercise and you’re on the path to a higher quality of life and enhanced independence as you age,” she adds.

Body Changes & Diet Needs

As we all know, our body changes with age. There is a reduction in muscle, an increase in body fat, and your total body water decreases by up to 20 percent. You need fewer calories than you did at a younger age since your basal metabolic rate decreases as muscle mass declines.

The good news is that moderate exercise helps preserve muscle mass and can slow the rate of this process. Of course, regular exercise has other benefits, including cardiovascular fitness, bone strength, better mobility and balance, as well as feelings of well-being. Dr. Malone adds, “Try to include exercise that increases lean muscle mass, like weight training. And consider yoga or pilates, which are great for flexibility and boosting your metabolism.”

Another effect of aging is that the body becomes less efficient at absorbing vital nutrients and minerals from our diet– including calcium, vitamin B and folate. Certain medications can also affect appetite, or block absorption of some vitamins and nutrients.

So, what should we “over 50s” do?

1. Make calories count.

“When patients ask ‘How many daily calories do I need?,’ I tell them it depends on how active they are and where their calories are coming from,” says Dr. Malone. Just counting calories isn’t enough for making smart food choices, but here are some general guidelines for maintaining (not losing) weight:

A woman over 50 who is:
-not physically active needs about 1600 calories a day
-somewhat active (housework, yard work, etc.) needs about 1800 calories a day
-very active (exercises regularly 30 mins. or more most days) needs about 2000 calories a day

A man over 50 who is:
-not physically active needs about 2000 calories a day
-somewhat active needs 2200-2400 calories per day
-very active needs 2400-2800 calories daily

These calories should come from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (5 a day when possible), unprocessed grains, and good sources of protein. To include more high quality protein in your diet, try replacing red meat and processed meat with fish, skinless chicken and turkey, low-fat dairy, and plant-based protein like beans, nuts and seeds.

“A variety of foods is best because you’ll have several sources of required vitamins and you won’t get bored by the same foods. Also, the more ‘whole’ unprocessed foods you can eat, the better. Go for the whole fruit, not fruit juices. Go for fresh, grilled or baked chicken, not processed lunch meat,” says Nurse Practitioner, Rachel Sweeney, of MPCP Arnold.

Also, if you are trying to maintain- or lose weight- keep track of daily calories with a food diary or a free app, such as myfitnesspal.com.

2. Drink water & eat more natural fiber.

As we age, we can become more prone to dehydration. Post a note in your kitchen reminding you to sip water throughout the day and to drink water with meals. Nutritionists say in general that 3-5 large glasses of water a day is adequate after age 50…you don’t need to go for 8-10 as we often hear. Make drinking more water a daily habit and you will help keep your mind sharp, and body regular. Staying hydrated keeps skin looking younger too!

Dietary fiber also helps keep the body and bowels regular, but can do much more, such as lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Women over 50 should aim to eat at least 21 grams of fiber a day, and men over 50 at least 30 grams per day. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, oatmeal, beans, and uncooked fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples and berries.

3. Don’t skip meals.

While it’s okay to skip meals occasionally, regularly missing meals or heavily restricting calories is unhealthy. Nutritionists advise those over 50 to eat three meals a day, or to break meals up into 5 smaller meals.

“Skipping meals causes our metabolism to slow down, which affects energy level and usually doesn’t help with weight loss,” says Rachel Sweeney, CRNP. “When we skip eating, our blood sugar levels drop, but they can surge again when we eat a big meal. This yo-yo effect is unhealthy and it’s much better to keep our blood sugar levels more even throughout the day with regular, healthy meals.”

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast gets your body going and is a good way to get some fruit, fiber and protein in your diet. Try yogurt topped with bran cereal and berries, or a veggie-packed omlette, peanut butter on whole grain toast or old-fashioned oatmeal with walnuts and fruit.

Snacking is okay as well to tide you over and keep your energy up during the day. Choose healthy options like almonds over chips and fruit instead of cookies. Other good snacks are a slice of cheese and whole grain crackers, veggies and hummus, and even a small cup of soup.

4. Read labels, and cut added sugar and sodium.

While it takes a bit more work, reading food labels can definitely help you make better food choices. Labels break down how much protein, carbohydrates, fats, sodium, key vitamins and minerals, and calories are in a specific serving.

Each label also has an ingredients list, which lists the ingredients from largest amount to smallest. Once you start reading labels you’ll be surprised how many foods list sugar or high fructose corn syrup as the first (largest) ingredient! Sugar is added to many of our foods to enhance the flavor, but many are crediting all the sugar in our diet to the obesity epidemic. Sugar may also cause inflammation in the body, so limiting it is good not only for weight control, but also possible disease prevention.

Reducing sodium (salt) will help prevent water retention and high blood pressure. Look for “low-sodium” options when shopping or try to season meals with herbs and spices other than salt.

5. Be cautious about supplements.

If you are over 50, some of the key vitamins and minerals you should get enough of are vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate and calcium. It is better to meet your needs through diet, but these are so important that you might want to consider taking supplements. Talk to your doctor about which, if any, supplements you need and don’t overdo it. High doses of certain supplements can be harmful, especially if you are on medications.

6. Stay Active!!

The benefits of exercise throughout your life can’t be over-stated. But as you age, even moderate exercise has been proven to add years to your life—and to make those years more enjoyable and independent.

“Regular exercise slows the effects of aging and many age-related disorders such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis,” says Dr. Malone. “But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We know that exercise reduces the risk and seriousness of falls and fractures, keeps our minds sharp, and encourages social interaction,” she adds.

It’s never too late to start exercising either. Start slow– take the stairs instead of the elevator, keep carrying your groceries, and try a new exercise class. As always, talk to your doctor about an exercise plan, and which activities you should consider given your age and current health status.

Amanda Malone, M.D.
Dr. Malone joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 2006 and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She received her medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in 2002 and completed her residency program in Family Practice at Stamford Hospital in 2005.
Rachel Sweeney, CRNP
Rachel Sweeney, CRNP joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 1999. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Villanova University in 1991 and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Marymount University in 1997. Ms. Sweeney is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice.

Womens Guide to Guys’ Health

– Key tips for his 30s-70s

We first thought of this article as a “Men’s Guide to Good Health.” But, as primary care doctors we know that many of our male patients would never even see us for a check-up if it weren’t for their wives, mothers or girlfriends. “Men notoriously underestimate their level of disease risk or sickness,” says MPCP physician, Dr. Garth Ashbeck. “They tend to ignore scheduling regular health exams, perhaps because they’re not as used to seeing the doctor on a regular basis as are women. However, it is through those regular check-ups and screenings that we can catch health problems early, often when they’re most treatable,” he adds.

That’s why we’re directing these health tips to women, (but we hope you men will read on…..)

In his 30’s– Men at this age should see the doctor for a baseline check-up and then at least every other year until age 40. A baseline gives the doctor a picture of where your health is now, and some important information about blood pressure, weight, disease risk and family history. Some guys don’t know their family history, so try to find out if cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or other disease runs in the family. While most screenings are done in a man’s 40s, some may need to be done early if he’s at high-risk. “Establishing a good relationship with a doctor early helps form a partnership in keeping the patient healthier throughout their life,” says Dr. Jonathan Forman of MPCP, “The focus can be on prevention versus treating disease after it’s already arisen.”

In his 40s– Men may start to feel their age more in their 40s, particularly if they’ve been ignoring their health up to now. “Often the 40s are the decade where men begin to see weight gain, high blood pressure or other problems creep up,” says Dr. Forman. The good news is that it’s a great time to turn your health around. Key screenings that should be done in men’s 40’s are for: high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose for diabetes, PSA (prostate-specific antigen), and a skin cancer check. Dr. Ashbeck adds that staying active is crucial in this decade and beyond. “Many men have hectic work and family lives, but regular exercise is a key to staying heart healthy, keeping the weight off, and reducing stress,” he notes.

In his 50’s– The main screening to add at age 50 (for men & women) is for colorectal cancer. Men should also see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam to detect early signs for glaucoma or other vision issues. “This is a time to tell your man not to ignore any warning signs,” says Dr. Forman. “What might seem to be indigestion, can actually be early signs of a heart attack, or those frequent trips to the bathroom at night might indicate an enlarged prostate.” By now men should be getting a full yearly work-up that includes blood tests to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some doctors may even suggest an echocardiogram or stress test if there are any cardiovascular disease symptoms.

In his 60s & Beyond– Research shows that people in their 60s and 70s are markedly happier than at other points in their lives. “If men have stayed on top of their health, these decades are usually very active and rewarding,” says Dr. Ashbeck. “Also, since it’s never too late to get healthier, proper diet, exercise and staying engaged socially are important habits to maintain.” Mixing in some strength training with regular aerobic exercise will help- remember senior does not mean sedentary. Men should also feel comfortable talking to their doctor about sexual function and health “below the belt.” Keeping on top of vision and hearing screenings is also important to staying active and social. Talk with your doctor about other important screenings, vitamin supplements, and recommended vaccinations, including an annual flu shot.

Jonathan Forman, M.D. Dr. Jonathan Forman, an MPCP partner who practices in our Glen Burnie office, is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. He received his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine and completed a residency program in Family Practice at University of Maryland Medical Center.
Garth Ashbeck, M.D.Dr. Garth Ashbeck is also an MPCP partner and he practices in the Pasadena office. Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, he received his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed a residency in Family Practice at Memorial Medical Center.

Aging Well: 8 Things You Can Do Now

by Michael Riebman, M.D.

“Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.” This quote from the poet Robert Browning, while written back in 1840, is the way many people are looking at aging today. We are on the cusp of learning more and more about the secrets to longevity—and the fact that our health isn’t predetermined only by our genes. Our lifestyle habits and choices have a huge impact on aging well, and successfully.

The average life expectancy in the US today is age 76 for men, 81 for women; and many people are living well above these averages into their late 80s and 90s. But for most of us simply living longer isn’t enough.

“What we really want is to live longer- and healthier,” says Michael Riebman, M.D. of MPCP in Annapolis. “Quality of life and staying active enough to do the things we enjoy is the goal of most of my patients.” And, according to Dr. Riebman and other health experts, there is growing scientific evidence that much of how well we age lies in our own hands.

While it definitely helps to have good genes, here are eight research-based tips on what you can do to encourage a longer, healthier life :

  1. Exercise Your Body. Staying physically active is crucial to maintaining your health and weight. Shoot for 30 minutes of activity every day to help your cardiovascular health, bone & muscle health and mental health. Fitness also helps your balance and reduces the risk of falls and fractures as you age.
  2. Exercise Your Mind & Social Skills. Stay engaged and try new activities to keep your mind sharp. Start a new hobby, take a course in something that interests you, listen to different music. Also make sure you stay engaged socially. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the relationships we cultivate have a greater impact on aging well than the events we experience.
  3. Eat Well & Maintain Weight. Obesity is a huge problem in our country and contributes to many diseases. “Eating a balanced diet and having a proper weight can’t be overlooked for good health,” says Dr. Riebman. He encourages a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. “Getting essential nutrients from our food is key and even taking some supplements as we age can help,” he adds.
  4. Get Regular Check-ups. Preventive care and early detection of disease helps you live longer. See your primary care doctor as a partner in health and be frank about your health concerns. Staying on top of high blood pressure or cholesterol, or other chronic problems, as well as getting the right screening exams at certain ages, is critical. Even some vaccinations are now suggested for older adults.
  5. Stop Smoking Already! Cigarette smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death. And, it’s never too late to quit and start getting immediate health benefits. There are many options to help you quit, so talk to your doctor or seek out resources.
  6. Be Safe. Studies show that important daily habits, such as wearing a seat belt, using a bike helmet, taking medications correctly, using sunscreen regularly, etc. all add up to a significantly longer, healthier life.
  7. Sleep Well. Sleep is restorative to our bodies and adults need 7-8 hours a night. This doesn’t really change as we get older so make sleep a priority at every age.
  8. Attitude Adjustments. According to a major Gallup poll of people age 18-85, levels of stress and worry hit a low point and well-being hits a high point by age 85. People with a positive attitude live longer and enjoy life more. Talk to someone if you feel depressed or anxious; there are many ways to help. And try to add a little humor – laughter is one of our best defenses!
 Michael Riebman, M.D.Dr. Riebman is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and is the current President of Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC. He received his medical degree from Medical University of South Carolina in 1985 and completed his residency program in Family Practice at the Lancaster General Hospital in 1988.