Strategies for maintaining health, fitness, and overall wellness change and evolve as we age. While many health considerations apply across age and gender, women have unique health needs and issues they must be aware of.
September 28th is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. The day is a good reminder for women to explore ways in which they can remain fit and healthy as they age.
Whether it’s diet, physical fitness, or working with your doctor to stay on top of health screenings, there are many adjustments that can be made to promote healthy aging.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three key diet changes women over 50 should make. These changes are:
- With one in three women over age 50 at risk for a bone break caused by osteoporosis, the Mayo Clinic recommends that women over that age get 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. While dairy is the best source of calcium, our ability to tolerate dairy can diminish with age. According to Mayo Clinic wellness dietitian Jason Ewoldt, “dark leafy greens and calcium-fortified orange juice are other good sources.”
- Healthy protein also is important as we age to help stave off sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass. Women over 50 should consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so a 140-pound woman would need at least 63 grams of protein daily. Good dietary sources of protein include skinless chicken breast, salmon, and lentils.
- As we age, we absorb fewer nutrients from the food we eat. One of those key nutrients is vitamin B-12, which is important for brain function and maintaining healthy red blood cells. Eggs, milk, cereals, grains, and lean meats are good sources of B-12.
Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet are the building blocks to remaining healthy as we age. According to the National Council on Aging, less then one third of older adults engage in moderate exercise and strength training on a weekly basis.
Be sure to discuss with your doctor any new eating habits or exercise routines you plan to start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two types of exercise each week – aerobics and muscle strengthening. Experts recommend that older adults engage in:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week.
According to Harvard Medical School, screening tests are important tools for detecting undiagnosed disease in otherwise healthy people. While the schedule for such tests isn’t set in stone, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, which is an independent panel of experts, offers a guide. The following are included in the guide:
- Blood pressure should be checked at least every two years if it is in the healthy range (under 120/80) and at least once a year if it is above normal (between 120/80 and 139/89).
- Regular lipid profile tests are recommended beginning at age 20.
- Diabetes screening is recommended for people with high blood pressure and for people who take blood pressure medication.
- A Pap test should be done once every three years for women ages 21-65.
- Annual testing for lung cancer is suggested for people ages 55-80 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years and currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years.
- Screenings for colorectal cancer are recommended for women ages 50-75. A decision on which type of test can be made between the doctor and patient.
- Bone density should be tested at least once after the age of 65.
Continued focus on maintaining and improving things, such as diet and exercise, engaging with your doctor on ways to stay fit, and screening for potential illness can work together and go a long way toward a promise of healthy aging.
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