As a woman you’ll probably agree that age is a funny thing. Working in an office, I always felt of average age. However, when I moved into the health and fitness industry all my co-workers and training buddies were generally 10 years my junior. While I don’t think it’s that much of a difference, for a colleague who is 19 years old, a gap of 10 years (and then some) may appear to be massive.
I’ve been called ‘Mum’, and ‘Gran’, but to be honest, age has never really bothered me. However, maybe it bothers you?
If it does and you fear the idea of getting old, then I’d really like to share with you some of the main issues about ageing and how you can use nutrition to fend off feeling old before your time!
Firstly though, why is there such a big scare about becoming older?
I think this is something that is usually pretty personal. There’s a lot of media scare stories out there that makes the natural process of ageing seem awful! We’re frightened of becoming weak and needy, of being a burden to our kids or feeling we can’t do something simple like walk up the stairs because of a fragile body or breakable bones.
However, here’s a newsflash:
We can’t stop the ageing process …but we can make sure we’re in tip-top physical shape to enjoy life’s later years.
So what actually happens when we start to age?
Women, especially, start going through many changes. From the age of around 30, woman start producing less of the sex hormone estrogen which is key for triggering the process of bone creation and repair. By the time we hit “the change” (menopause), the amount of estrogen that is produced dramatically declines and can lead to a number of conditions including increased anxiety, night-sweats and brittle bones.
This last condition is the main reason why a women’s risk for osteoporosis dramatically increases as she ages. You see, after menopause, the rate of bone loss revs up as the amount of estrogen being produced drops significantly. In men, there is also a decline in the level of sex hormones produced though it’s not as swift.
However for all you men out there – Osteoporosis is not just a women’s disease so make sure you’re taking care of your bones too!
OK Nicky, I hear you cry – But where’s the good news in all of this? How do we make sure our bones are strong and healthy as we get older?
One word: Nutrition
Here are three top tips to eating your way to good bone health:
1. Calcium is fantastic for building strong bones and its best to get your daily amount through your food. It can be found in the usual dairy foods such as yoghurt and milk, but it’s also worth adding a few extra greens into your meals. Foods such as kale, spinach and broccoli are so easy to add to a stew or stir-fry.
2. It’s also vital that we have vitamin D which enables the body to absorb the calcium. Our bodies produce Vitamin D with the help of the sun. This may not be the best news for citizens residing on the lovely isles of Britain where sun comes around with the same frequency as Christmas! However, some foods that provide vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna and fortified foods such as some cereals, dairy products and fruit juices.
Otherwise, check with your GP whether it may be necessary for you to take a vitamin D supplement.
3. Step away from the salt. Salty foods can actually cause you to lose calcium which then speeds up bone loss (excess caffeine and alcohol also have this effect). With this in mind, cut back on all processed and junk foods which are the biggest culprits when it comes to hidden salt. If you do have to eat tinned or pre-packaged food, look for ones which say ‘no added salt’ or rinse out the veggies and beans from their tins before you use them.
Finally, remember, alongside smart eating, exercise can help. A regular weight-bearing exercise programme can really aid in strengthening your bones no matter what your age (I’ll go into this in a later post – so watch out for it!)
However, it’s also good to remember that getting old does not have to be a negative experience! We should be embracing the changes we’re going through to have a healthy and active lifestyle. And, c’mon now, tell the truth – do you really want to be 18 again anyway?