In our last post in this “Age Friendly” series, we talked about not feeling thirsty and yet needing to drink. We’ve also talked previously about the food groups, snacking, and even beverage choices. This post, we’ll look at the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, and how our food choices, exercise and calorie intake all factor into that.
First, why is maintaining a healthy weight so important at any age? We know that an elevated body mass index (BMI) in older adults can increase the likelihood of developing health issues, like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight—or, if needed, losing weight—can help decrease these risks.
But, don’t mistake “healthy weight” to mean underweight. Being underweight can put you at risk for developing osteoporosis and anemia, and can make it more difficult for you to recover from an illness or infection, according to the National Institute of Aging.
What about weight
So, what is a healthy weight? Well, it’s not just the number on your bathroom scale. Or, your current BMI. Those only tell part of the story. An older adult with a “normal” body weight might actually have more body fat and less muscle compared to others described as slightly overweight. And, healthy weight ranges for older adults differ from other age groups.
As always, talk to your health-care provider about your specific situation, especially before trying any program to lose or gain weight to hit some perceived ideal.
How, then, does your health relate to the foods you eat, the calories you consume, and the exercise you get?
Well, choosing healthier foods (like those we’ve talked about in previous posts) and staying active can help you hit or maintain healthy weight. That can help you feel more energetic. And, that also might decrease some of the health risks we’ve mentioned. Being active also helps you keep a more positive attitude, and can keep you connected with others.
For your lifestyle, try packing your diet with nutrient-rich foods and aiming for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, per recommendations from the National Institute of Aging.
And, of course, keep an eye on the amount of calories you consume. The amount you should take in will depend on a variety of factors, including age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate Plan website to learn how many calories you should take in each day, and the amounts from each food group you should have to reach the mark.
Now that you know your calorie target, you can adjust to lose or gain weight. The equation is simple, and one we’ve all heard or seen before: lose weight by exercising more and/or eating fewer calories. Tweak that to gain weight: take in more calories each day without skipping the exercise.
And whether you are trying to lose or gain weight, maintain a healthy eating pattern, one that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins. Don’t use the need to gain (or lose) weight as an excuse to make unhealthy food choices.
And, again, always consult your health-care professional before changing your diet.
Next: Roadblocks that keep us from eating healthy.