Terrence Steyer, M.D.
Chair, Department of Family Medicine
We are, very much, what we eat. As more and more evidence suggests, what we eat has a great effect on our risks for all sorts of diseases — from high blood pressure to colon cancer. Fiber is "in." Research suggests that increasing fiber in the diet would decrease our risk of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and colon cancer. Fruits with pulps, vegetables with wood stems (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) are excellent sources of fiber. Fat is "out." We need less fat in our diet as we age — no more than 30% of calories each day. Vegetable fats (except for palm and coconut oils) are generally better for us than animal fat. Visible fat should not be a part of the diet except for an occasional splurge. Also …
While older farmers may be more likely to be involved in regular exercise than non-farmers, some may still not be getting the weight-bearing, aerobic exercise that they need. The following changes have been thought to be related to aging, but are related more to inactivity:
Decreased oxygen consumption, heart output, muscle mass, red cell mass, level of immunity, calcium in bones, tolerance for sugar, and increased blood pressure, tendency to faint, cholesterol, and constipation.
If you are taking medication for heart, lung or joint disease, see your physician before starting an exercise program. Also …
Exercise benefits include increased alertness, firmer muscles, more agility, more energy, better ability to cope with stress, decreased body fat, improved circulation, stronger bones, and a more efficient heart.
In healthy men and women, the brain works as well at age 90 as it does at age 20. Memory does seem to change as we age for a variety of reasons (motivation, anxiety, time it takes to locate information in our memory), but the change is not due to faulty memory itself. The key to excellent brain function includes maintenance of mentally and physically stimulating activities, remaining socially involved, and a continuing, positive attitude. Also …
American Geriatrics Society. Complete guide to aging and health. New Jersey: Harmony Books, 1995.
Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. The Pocket Guide to Staying Healthy at 50+: PUB#04-1P001-A, 2003.