Healthy eating and regular physical activity are keys to good health at any age. They may lower your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. They may even help ward off depression and keep your mind sharp as you age. This brochure offers tips and tools to help people aged 65 and over eat healthfully and be physically active. Talk to your health care provider for more specific advice if you have health problems or concerns. Remember, it is never too late to make healthy changes in your life.
To help you stay on track with your healthy eating plan, follow these tips:
It is easier to eat well when you plan for your meals and make them enjoyable. Try these tips:
If you have a problem eating well, such as difficulty chewing or not wanting to eat, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian. They can give you specific advice on following a healthy eating plan that addresses these barriers to healthful eating. Check with your dentist about caring for your teeth or dentures and your gums.
The death of a loved one or moving from your home of many years may affect your desire to eat. Talk to your health care provider if events in your life are keeping you from eating well. Sometimes talking to a friend or family member can help. You can also check with your church or local Department of Social Services to see if there are support services available in your area.
Many medications may alter the taste of food. If you have difficulty eating because many foods taste bad, speak with your health care provider about other options and medications.
Ask your health care provider if you should take a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. No pills have been proven to stop aging or improve your memory. Taking a one-a-day type, however, may help you meet the nutrient needs of your body every day.
Maintaining a healthy weight may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. It may also help you move better and stay mentally sharp. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, you are at risk for certain health problems. Ask your health care provider about a healthy weight for you. If you start to gain or lose weight and do not know why, your health care provider can tell you if this change is healthy for you.
Health Risks of Being Underweight
If you are underweight, you may not be getting enough nutrients. Talk to your health care provider about the best way to gain weight and meet your nutritional needs.
Health Risks of Being Overweight or Obese
If you already have one or more of these conditions, ask your health care provider if a modest weight loss (5 to 10 percent of your body weight) could help you feel better or need less medicine.
If you need to lose weight, make sure that you reduce your total calories, but do not reduce your nutrient intake. Do not try to lose weight unless your health care provider tells you to.
Physical activity is good for your health at every age. If you have never been active, starting regular physical activity now may improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility. Being active can help you live on your own for a longer time and lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and colon cancer.
Whatever activity you choose, follow the safety tips below:
Aerobic activities use your large muscle groups and increase your heart rate. They may cause you to breathe harder. You should be able to speak several words in a row while doing aerobic activities, but should not be able to carry on an entire conversation. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include:
To get started, pick an activity you enjoy. Begin with small, specific goals, such as I will take a 10-minute walk three times this week. Slowly increase the length of time and the number of days you are active.
You may benefit most from a combination of aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility activities. Build up to 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity cardiovascular or aerobic activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Try to incorporate balance and flexibility activities into your daily workout as well. Work toward doing strength exercises on 2 or 3 days a week.
Regular aerobic activity can help you:
Strengthening activities require your muscles to use force against a resistance, such as gravity, weights, or exercise bands. Examples of strength training activities include:
Doing strengthening activities regularly may help you:
Balance activities typically focus on the muscles of your abdomen, lower back, hips, and legs. They require you to control your body as you move through space to avoid falls. Examples of balance activities include:
Doing balance activities regularly may help you:
Flexibility activities help increase the length of your muscles and improve your range of motion. Examples of flexibility exercises include:
Doing flexibility activities regularly may help you:
Weight-bearing activities require your bones and muscles to work against gravity. They include any activities in which your feet and legs are bearing your total body weight. Examples of weight-bearing activities include:
Doing weight-bearing activities regularly may help you:
Many activities give you more than just one benefit. For example, doing aqua aerobics using water weights gives you aerobic and strengthening benefits. Yoga combines balance, flexibility, and strengthening benefits. You do not have to do four separate types of activities each week. Choose what you like to do and round out your activities from there. Remember, any amount of physical activity you do is better than none.
There are plenty of ways to be active without setting aside a special time for exercise.
The tips below may help you to add more activity to your everyday life.
Due to loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills, or other reasons, many older people feel lonely, sad, or stressed in their daily lives. Feelings like these may cause you to lose energy, not feel like doing anything, not eat enough, or overeat. Being good to yourself may help you to cope with your feelings and improve your energy level, eating habits, and health. Here are some ideas for being good to yourself:
Remember, it's never too late to improve your eating plan, be more physically active, and be good to yourself for a healthier life.
Activity Across Your Lifespan
Young at Heart
American Dietetic Association
Consumer Nutrition Information Hotline
Food and Nutrition Information Center, U.S. Department
Phone: (301) 5045414
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute on Aging
Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and
Exercise: The Key to the Good Life
Phone: (202) 6909000
U.S. Administration on Aging
Phone: (202) 6190724
Eldercare Locator: 18006771116
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Eating Well as We Age
How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts
Fit and Fabulous as You Mature
Weight Loss for Life