The nation’s population of baby boomers is aging, and quickly. By 2029, even the youngest of us will be age 65. Our kids, those punky Gen Xers, aren’t far behind: The oldest of them are now in their early 50s.
But unlike our parents and grandparents, we don’t want to take growing old sitting down. Literally. We still want to run – or jog, at least – and play tennis and garden and shoot hoops … and enjoy a regular sex life. The good news is we really can live active lives into the decades to come — even if we can’t cheat our way to health like we could at 21.
For those of us who have hit the “big five-oh,” it’s true that our bodies aren’t the same as they were when we were in college. Our blood vessels and arteries are beginning to lose their elasticity – just like our skin is – and our blood pressure is likely going up. At the same time, our bone density is dropping, our digestive system is causing us trouble, and we may find ourselves unable to hold our bladder. Men entering their 50s may have difficulty getting an erection and keeping one, while women may find sex uncomfortable. The risk for many types of diseases — heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancers — is now rising, too.
Fortunately, all of those things you’re supposed to do to stay healthy, such as drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy foods, can help slow the effects of aging. With that in mind, here are the top ways to stay healthy into your 50s and beyond:
Use it or lose it. This old adage is truer now than ever before. Exercising will help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check and your bones from becoming brittle. It will also give you the strength and stamina needed to enjoy hobbies and sports, help lower stress, improve digestion and help maintain mental alertness.
While you might fear you’ll put too much stress on your body, the more likely concern is that you won’t put enough stress on it. In fact, after age 30, you begin to lose muscle mass and the only way to counteract that is by weight training.
Eat right, supplement smartly. There’s no one pill or food that will stop the clock, but a healthy diet that includes specific supplements will help you exercise with energy and less pain and help you prevent age-related problems such as bone loss and diabetes.
First, stay away from white flour, sugar, red meats, hydrogenated fats and processed foods – all of which can increase inflammation, lead to overeating and contribute to constipation. Instead, eat more wild fish, organic fruits, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts and olive oil. And ask a trusted health care professional about specific supplements for age-related problems, such as taking curcumin, hyaluronic acid or omega-3 supplements for joint pain, as well as an absorbable form of calcium, magnesium or vitamin D3 for bone loss.
Visit your doctor and dentist. Because your risk of getting some types of cancers such as those affecting the skin and colon increase, regularly inspect your body for strange bumps, lumps, lesions and other changes, and pay attention to any changes in your bowel movements. Your chances of getting diabetes and heart disease also increases with age.
So, make sure to get your regular checkups and exams to catch problems early. Gum disease and other dental woes are also more likely to become problems as you age, so see your dentist and take their advice on oral care. Coenzyme Q10 — or CoQ10 — can improve the health of your gums.
Protect your skin. We most often associate age with appearance: gray hair and wrinkly skin. But when it comes to skin, this is not only a cosmetic concern. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and it’s your first guard against infection, so care for it with good quality lotions, sunscreens and lip balm. Chemical- and paraben-free deodorants will generally be better for you than those that contain an excess of chemicals.
Stay regular. If you’re losing control of your bladder, you should see a doctor. The culprit could be age related or have a medical cause that needs to be corrected, such as a kidney problem, urinary tract infection or, in men, an enlarged prostate.
If the cause is due to the effects of aging, then try performing Kegel exercises to help strengthen the muscles of the bladder, small intestine and rectum. The exercises may also help improve your sexual function, and so will regular workouts and a diet that helps keep blood pressure under control. Talk to your health care professional about alternative treatments — beta-sitosterol extracts, pygeum and rye grass — for bladder and sexual woes as well.
Don’t beat yourself up. If you’re not yet in your 50s, then start living a healthier lifestyle now. Adopt an exercise routine and good diet to prevent problems. Also, avoid cumulative stresses to your body such as those caused by loud music and noises, excessive sun exposure, and rough sports that can cause joint injuries that will come back to haunt you.
Perhaps most importantly, avoid a sedentary lifestyle — the last thing you want to do is take aging sitting down.
Steve Bernardi is a compounding pharmacist and Gary Kracoff is a registered pharmacist and a naturopathic physician at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Mass. For more information, visit www.naturalcompounder.com. Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications, or health in general can e-mail email@example.com or call 781-893-3870.