By Joy Pape FNP-C CDE CILC
I never thought it would happen to me but, one day, last week, I couldn’t bend over and touch my toes. What a shock! I always thought of myself as limber.
No one ever thinks it will happen to them, be it getting older, having a heart attack, high blood pressure, arthritis, cancer, you name it…none of us really expect this.
So, what can you do? What should you eat? That’s the question many people ask, but the answer is not all about the food you eat. Food is only part of it. A bigger part for those of us 50 and older is how much we move and how we move. Everyday we see research on the benefits of exercise. That may be a scary word for you, but the best you can do for yourself is make sure that you are flexible and save or build muscle.
As we age, function is the hot topic. Do you want to stay in your own home and care for yourself? Start preparing now and it doesn’t matter where you start. Just get moving.
From birth until your 30s, your body is in the muscle-building mode. But then you start losing muscle, and along with that, strength and function. This is called age-related sarcopenia, a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. It is related to physical disability, poor quality of life, and even death. You are not exempt.
Think of what often takes people out of their homes: falls and their consequences. If you don’t have the mobility, flexibility, and balance, you are more prone to falls, and without the muscle strength to catch yourself, they can be disastrous.
At a time like this, when everyone seems so concerned about weight loss, I recommend putting your energy into building muscle and flexibility. You may even lose some weight too.
Here are my tips to help you build muscle, flexibility, and mobility.
Choose higher protein foods. Protein has been shown to help build and prevent muscle loss. Instead of starting your day with toast and coffee, have eggs (an omelet), cheese, or Greek yogurt with some chopped nuts. If you don’t like, or are allergic to eggs, it doesn’t have to be breakfast food, but do make sure you have protein at every meal.
Move. Get up and move more. Anything more than you do now is helpful. It is most important to do strengthening exercises, which is also called resistance training. There are also exercises you can do at home, such as lifting food cans and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, if even for a flight or two. Take yoga or tai chi classes. There is also a program called Silver Sneakers. Check it out at silversneakers.com. You may also qualify for services through your health plan. For more information and tips, visit medlineplus.gov.
Medications. If you take medications, make sure to see your health care provider regularly to confirm that your medicines are still right for you. Perhaps the type or dose of medicine you have been taking for years needs to be changed to ensure that you are safe at home.
So, in simple terms, eat your protein, move, and confirm that your medicines are still right for you.
And, by the way…I took my own advice and can once again bend over and touch my toes!
Joy Pape is an internationally known board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.