The Doctors share nutrition tips for baby boomers. / Casey Shaw for USA WEEKEND
Baby Boomers have the longest life expectancy of any generation thus far; theyíre also believed to be the most active generation. But a new study out of West Virginia University School of Medicine may tarnish that healthy reputation: Researchers found this aging group to have higher levels of hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, and higher rates of disability, than the generation that came before them. Obesity was also found to be more common among Baby Boomers ó born between 1946 and 1964 ó than their parents, which can affect quality of life and increase the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, osteoarthritis and other diseases.
Good nutrition can help reduce the risk of many of the health conditions that are plaguing Boomers. Start with the basic dietary guidelines: Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, lean proteins and seafood; limit unhealthy fats, added sugars and refined grains. Here are three more diet strategies to help keep Boomers strong and healthy into their golden years.
Cut sodium.Too much of it can cause excess fluid to build up in the body, which places an added burden on the heart, increases blood pressure and can lead to heart problems, stroke and even memory loss. Boomers ages 51 and older (and people at any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease) should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg. Thatís less than three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, for those who are quick to grab the shaker; most Americans, however, get the majority of their sodium from processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments and canned foods. In somewhat related news, a small study published in the journal Hypertension found that drinking one cup of beet root juice a day may help lower blood pressure.
Consume more fiber.The list of benefits is long: Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels as well as slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. High-fiber diets also can normalize bowel movements and may help with weight control. And according to a recent review of past research, people who eat foods that are particularly rich in cereal fiber or mixtures of whole grains and bran may be less likely to develop diabetes or heart disease. The daily fiber recommendation for men ages 51 and older is 30 grams; women in the same age group, 21 grams. Most Americans get only about 15 grams a day.
Consider B12 supplements. People ages 50 and older may be less able to absorb B12, but your body needs it to make red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia; left untreated, it can cause tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, mood changes or disorientation.
Before adding vitamins to your regimen, you should talk to your doctor. Other supplements you should discuss: vitamin D and calcium.