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It is no secret that as we age our minds and bodies become less and less reliable. Some of this is due to genetics, but most of it is due to lifestyle choices. How we treat our bodies in our early years has a tremendous impact on how our bodies will treat us in our later years. It seems everywhere we turn we are being told to make healthy food choices, stay active, and don’t smoke. There is a reason the healthcare industry pushes these facts, and it’s because they’re true! Here are some major health concerns for the aging adult, and how to avoid becoming a statistic:

1. Obesity. No one likes that word or the connotations that come with it, but the fact remains that over 75% of American adults over the age of 60 are overweight or obese. Aside from leaving a person feeling uncomfortable, tired, and unhappy, obesity leads to a host of other health problems including type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure to name a few. How to avoid it? Eat fewer calories than you burn. Choosing foods low in saturated fat and sugar, but high in protein, paired with staying active will keep your body feeling great. Many fitness professionals recommend the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you make healthy food choices, and 20% of the time you allow yourself that frozen yogurt or iced caramel macchiato.

2. Arthritis. This is common in almost 50% of aging Americans, and can happen for a number of reasons. One of them is overuse of the bones (for example the knee), so experts recommend regular weekly exercise instead of random spurts throughout your life. The factor that most of us have control over is weight. One study showed that by losing only 11lbs, the risk of arthritis was lowered by 50 percent! Again, staying active and making healthy food choices is the key to maintaining a happy body and mind.

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3. Osteoporosis. Low bone mass affects almost 44 million adults over the age of 50, with most of them being women. Osteoporosis is not a normal factor in the aging adult, and in fact can be prevented. Our bodies will maintain a healthy level of calcium, and if it’s not coming from our food, it will come from our bones, depleting the bone mass and making the person more susceptible to falls and bone breakage. People who experience a fall at age 65 or older sometimes never fully recover, and it greatly diminishes the quality of life. What can you do to avoid this? Don’t smoke (at all!), limit alcohol and avoid soda, which hinders calcium intake. Women are more susceptible because most have had children, and the body uses a whole lot of calcium to develop a baby. Exercise, low fat dairy foods, and vitamin D supplements also help in the strengthening of bones and prevention of loss of bone mass.

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In most cases, you have control over your body and how it ages. You are the only one who can decide what foods to eat (or not), and how much to exercise (or not). Smoking affects almost every part of your body and has long-lasting effects that are usually not seen until years later. Take good care of your body now, and it will take good care of you later.

These statements have not bee evaluated by a medical professional, and are not meant to take the place of a doctor’s advice. As always, consult with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.