We would all love to be fit and healthy as we age; free of disease with boundless energy to do all the things we want to do. None of us know what is around the corner, but there are a few things we can do to help us live a vibrant, healthy life that will carry us into our later years. Here are a few simple tips to support our ageing well:-
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Yes we can still build new neurons (working brain cells) even as we age. Learn a new language, go back to college, learn a new instrument. Or get creative and draw, paint, write poems or flower arrange! Whatever takes your fancy, if it’s new to you and the brain has to work hard it can help to reduce memory loss as we age.
EAT MORE FIBRE
Fibre is the part of the plant which is indigestible and is great for keeping our gut healthy, ridding us of excess hormones & toxicants. It is known to help lower cholesterol levels, help in weight control, protect against bowel cancers & diabetes. Fibre also feeds our microbiome (friendly bacteria) in the gut which may aid not only our gut health but lower inflammation throughout the body.
The goal is to try and eat as close to 30g per day. Start slowly and build up the quantity so that you don’t feel too bloated. Add in berries such as raspberries (frozen are inexpensive), apples, pears, peas, broccoli and all other fruit and veg. Include whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa & barley. Best of all split peas, lentils and beans are full of fibre. Be sure to drink plenty of water to be sure the fibre moves easily through the gut.
LOOK AFTER YOUR BONE HEALTH
Around the age of 30 years we are pretty much at the peak of our bone density so it is important to build up good bone health whilst we are young. Even though our bones are constantly remodelling as we age we tend to lose more bone than we gain, however there are a few things we can do to try and prevent too much loss and to keep our bones strong and healthy into old age.
Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Known as the sunshine vitamin it is actually a hormone which enables us to absorb calcium (among other things). The best way to get some vitamin D is from sunlight, allowing your face and arms, without sunscreen exposure to sunlight for about 20-30minutes a day. This can be difficult in the winter months therefore a good quality vitamin D3 supplement is required, preferably in a complex with vitamin K2 which helps direct the calcium into the bones. You can also add the following foods to your diet which contain vitamin D: eggs, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines and mushrooms
Calcium is a very important mineral (along with magnesium) in maintaining good bone health. Dairy is a good source of calcium, however it isn’t the only one. Vegetables such as kale and broccoli are rich in calcium and vitamin K, and are absorbed easily by the body. Tinned sardines with the bones are rich in calcium (see an earlier post about these sardines).
Weight bearing exercise is great not just for your muscles, but for bone health too. Walking, jogging, dancing; anything that has some impact with the ground. Resistance training such as lifting heavy weights has also been shown to slow down bone loss and even build new bone.
❌Things we shouldn’t be doing if we want healthy bones are smoking, excessive drinking and being sedentary.
Don’t be afraid of including good quality fats in your diet. We need to eat fat to absorb our fat soluble vitamins D, E, A & K. To make our sex hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone & testosterone, which are made from cholesterol, especially important if a woman is going through peri-menopause and menopause as this can help with hormonal balance and stability.
Healthy fats may protect your brain & improve function, reduce inflammation throughout the body, lower insulin resistance and be heart protective ; and they help you feel fuller for longer, so we are less likely to overeat.
So what are these healthy fats we should be including in our diets?
Oily fish, eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, other nuts & seeds, avocados, olive oil.
Saturated fat (eg. Butter, coconut oil) is no longer thought of as the big baddie but be moderate and have more of the unsaturated fats as mentioned above.
❌Avoid trans-unsaturated fatty acids (trans fats), also known as hydrogenated fats which can be found in some processed foods and junk foods (where oils are heated to very high temperatures).
Sleep is something so necessary and vital to our health and the belief that we need less as we age is nothing but a myth.
It is no secret that most of us as we age have less quality deep sleep and to make it worse our sleep is broken which can be caused by medications, wanting to go to the toilet or illness. However it can also be contributed to a change with our hormones, night sweats, any stresses we have, and our lifestyle. If we don’t sleep well our mortality risk increases and our risk of depression and illness also increases.
So what can we do to improve our sleep? :
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon such as coffee, fizzy drinks & chocolate as this can stay in the body for up to 8 hours & even more if you are sensitive.
Keep to a routine of going to bed and rising at the same time every day- even at weekend.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime as although it might seem to help you drop of this can disrupt your sleep as well as leaving you with less deep sleep.
Exercise earlier on in the day and not late at night. Even better getting outside early in the morning can help reset our circadian rhythm (our internal body clock).
Avoid eating a large meal late at night as the digesting of the meal could disrupt sleep, and the overnight fast is when our body is repairing and when we have a cellular “clear up” which is an important part of healthy ageing.
Try to avoid blue light such as your mobile phone & computer a couple of hours before bed as the light suppresses our natural production of melatonin which instigates our feelings of sleepiness.
Relax before bed; take a bath, read a book, do some light yoga, meditate.
Be sure to eat magnesium rich foods (fruit & veg, seeds & nuts, beans & lentils), or if you are really struggling see a nutritional professional about taking supplementary magnesium.