The #1 Secret to Aging Well
Dietitian and Diabetes Educator Tiffany Rios, RD, CDE, of Shore Physicians Group, wants you in on a secret: maintaining your muscle mass is one of the most important factors for healthy aging.
“It’s projected we lose about 3-8% of muscle per decade after the age of 30, and this rate of decline is even higher after age 60,” Rios said. “But there are things you can do to minimize the effects of age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia.”
Sarcopenia puts you at greater risk for serious health issues, including falls, fractures and debilitating injuries. According to the CDC, one in five falls in older people causes broken bones or head injuries. When these injuries occur in older age, they can make it hard for a person to get around or even live alone. Often, these injuries can lead to hospitalization and many other serious complications – even death.
“Exercise training and proper nutrition can dramatically improve muscle mass and strength. I recommend an exercise-training schedule that incorporates both resistance and aerobic exercise at least three days a week. Sustaining an exercise program and muscle mass can also help to ward off insulin resistance which is common as we age,” Rios said.
Rios also stresses that in addition to exercise, diet plays a critical role in maintaining muscle mass.
“Sustaining muscle mass requires sufficient amounts of quality protein. The Standard American Diet is often filled with processed foods low in fiber and protein, making it hard to meet your protein needs. Roughly 1g of protein per kilogram is needed to maintain and build muscle. For example, a 140 pound woman/2.2= 64g of protein. Excellent protein sources include eggs, pasture-raised chicken, wild-caught fish, grass fed beef, lentils, and organic Greek yogurt and cheese.”
Hormones also can impact your muscle mass. Testosterone, in particular, helps us build muscle, but a person’s testosterone level will also fall naturally with age – by 1 to 2 percent per year after age 30. To sustain testosterone levels, make sure you’re doing strength-bearing exercise and incorporate foods rich in Zinc, such as legumes, nuts and seeds, oysters, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, ginger and pomegranate. These are all healthy options for boosting testosterone production.
Rios says the most important takeaway is that you should keep exercising throughout your life. It is the most important thing you can do to live a longer, healthier and happier life. She reiterates the importance of nutrition as well. “Reduce processed foods and increase foods that include protein, zinc and nutrients that support healthy hormones.”