10 steps towards a healthy lifestyle.

What does fit and healthy look like at 50plus?

Do you consider yourself fit, healthy or both?

Most of us believe being healthy and being physically fit are one and the same, but are they really?

A champion bodybuilder may be seen as fit, but is he healthy?

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Does he look good? At 50plus do you need to be thinking about more?

The World Health Organisation has defined health as:

“a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, which includes quality of life, longevity, ageing well and freedom of pain, alongside the absence of disease and infirmity.”

Fitness, on the other hand, may be defined as a person's ability to perform certain physical activities.

Being physically fit is, therefore, part of being healthy but it's not the whole story.

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The keys to good health is a healthy lifestyle and this requires us to balance nutrition, exercise, mental wellbeing and sleep.

If we don't live a healthy lifestyle then as we get older the risk of you suffering a range of life-threatening illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes is significantly increased.

Here are 10 simple steps that we can take towards a healthier lifestyle:

Increase your activity: Now before you start any exercise remember we're all over 50 so go to the doctor and get the all-clear. If you're not sure where to start check out our blogs:

Make sure you get enough sleep. If you're having problems sleeping check out our blog:

10 tips to help you sleep better.

Reduce your salt intake. Too much salt in the diet poses problems such as water retention, raised blood pressure, higher risk of a heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. Watch out for hidden salts (which is sometimes called sodium on food labels).

Top 5 biggest sources of hidden salt in your diet:

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Bread: The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the top 25 sources of salt in Americans' diets — and obvious culprits like crisps and pretzels don't even make the top five. The most likely salt source is bread, which squares with recent Australian research that found bread, rolls and wraps are the biggest contributor of salt to Aussie diets. Eating too much salt can lead to big health problems, so it's vital to be aware of the foods that contain it in high amounts.

Pizza: Like bread, the dough in pizza crust can be saturated in salt. What you put on it doesn't help to cut down on sodium: many tomato pastes and sauces are full of salt (barbecue sauce is even worse), cheese is often high in salt, and pizza toppings (especially cured meats) are only going to make that salt bomb even more explosive.

Sandwiches and burgers: Like pizza, sandwiches aren't helped by the salt-laden dough that forms their base, or by the ingredients added to them such as processed meats.

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Processed and cured meats: Salt is usually added to processed meats as a preservative. Jerky is a prime, high-sodium example.

Soup: It can be a tasty and nutritious meal or snack, but it all comes down to how the soup is made. If you're making it at home or ordering from a restaurant, rethink that hefty shake of salt you're adding to it. Canned soups are often extremely heavy on sodium, so look out for one that has less than 400mg of sodium per 100g.

According to NHS facts:

"Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt (2.4g sodium) – that's around 1 teaspoon per day."

Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains: Fruit and vegetables provide much-needed antioxidants and vitamins that is essential as you age.

Reduce your red meat consumption: Red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and can form part of a balanced diet. But eating a lot of red and processed meat probably increases your risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer.

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In 2019 researchers found that consuming high levels of saturated fat was associated with an increase in blood cholesterol, regardless of meat type. It was also found that both red and white meat protein resulted in higher blood cholesterol than non-meat diets. The study, called the APPROACH trial (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health), appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Try some of the vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes that you can now find in most shops. Keep an eye on the salt content but you might be quite surprised how things have moved quite a bit since the bean burgers and nut roasts of our youth.

Increase your intake of legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts): Legumes don't contain much saturated fat, are a good source of plant protein and they're packed with other nutrients, such as folate, calcium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and antioxidants.

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Replace ordinary dairy products with low-fat dairy and dairy alternatives such as oat milk. calcium and vitamin D are found in dairy products and are essential for bone density. Unsweetened calcium-fortified dairy alternatives like soya milk, soya yoghurts and soya cheeses can make good alternatives to dairy products.

To make healthier choices go for lower fat and lower sugar options.

Increase the fibre in your diet. A high fibre diet is linked to a better overall nutritional intake and this promotes healthy regular bowel movements. Whole grains are rich in B vitamins and fibre.

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Drink more water. It is important to stay hydrated, therefore an increased consumption of fluids is essential, especially alongside a high fibre diet. The best option is water; at least 2 litres a day, but you can compensate with other beverages, (sadly not alcohol!) tea, coffee and juices among others. There are several food choices that can hydrate you too; tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and melons all contain lots of water.

Finally, choosing a nutrient-dense diet is key to staying healthy, lean and strong. Try to achieve three well-balanced meals per day including breakfast (the most important meal of the day).

Di’s Healthy Action: Let's keep our digestive system healthy.

Increase your fibre intake: Have a bowl of whole grain cereal with some added fruit throughout the day, 2-3 times a week. Better than a bar of chocolate if you feel a little peckish between meals.

Take care of your Mind Body and Soul

Author : Diane Simpson

Previously practiced as a Dietitian in Nutrition and Dietetics and specialised in Diabetes.


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