According to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the United States is 77.8 years. For men, it is 75.1 and, for women, 80.5. Let’s make the most of our years!
The Department of Health and Human Services has a publication of Dietary Guidelines for Americans that keeps it simple.
A healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes/beans and peas, starchy, and other.
- Fruits, especially whole fruits.
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages.
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes/beans and peas, and nuts, seeds and soy products
- Oils, a healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.
Serving sizes can be easier by visualizing common items. A serving of meat or poultry is the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. One serving of cheese is a pair of dice. One-half cup of cooked rice, pasta, or snacks, such as chips or pretzels is a rounded handful, or a tennis ball. One cup of chopped raw fruits or vegetables is a baseball. Find more with an internet search for easy food serving sizes.
Exercise is important for every age group. It can be a healthy habit for your entire life or can be a new habit. Consult your health care provider for specific guidance.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health. Moving more and sitting less have tremendous benefits for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity or current fitness level. Benefits can start accumulating with small amounts of, and immediately after doing, physical activity.
- Preschool-aged children – ages 3 through 5 – should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
- Children and adolescents – ages 6 through 17 – should do an hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening exercise.
- Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits. For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
- As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training, as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Little activities can help you move more. Take the stairs. Look for the parking spot farthest from the store front. Take a walk, carry weights to get an upper-body work out. Go to the neighborhood park. According to the Trust for Public Land, Albuquerque scored well for public access, with 90% of Albuquerque residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. Some parks have equipment for additional exercises.
During the pandemic, it has been challenging to engage socially with other people. We have been away from our friends and family. Social organizations have closed or limited their face-to-face services. This requires us to work harder to engage with others. An internet search on social engagement had common themes.
- Use your skills to adapt to the change.
- Look for the good and joy you have; write down what you are thankful for.
- Make a habit of learning.
Combine moving and engagement with a neighborhood walking group. Community centers, libraries, museums, continuing education organizations and others have started to offer in-person opportunities. Nonprofit organizations need volunteers. Call an organization with a mission you support and ask how you can volunteer. This website can help you find a cause to volunteer with, www.volunteermatch.org. You will find other like-minded people.
Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard School of Medicine has studied super-agers. “Their results suggest that embracing new mental challenges may be key to preserving both brain tissue and brain function.” The May 1, 2017, article can be found at www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-aging/what-does-it-take-to-be-a-super-ager.