March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme set by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.” The organization acknowledges that making major healthy lifestyle changes can be a daunting task, so we’re all encouraged to take small (and much more manageable) “bite-sized” steps toward healthier living.
Add a little more fiber to your diet
Fiber helps lower “bad” cholesterol levels and helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps maintain bowel health and plays a big role in achieving a healthy weight. And research has shown that a diet rich in fiber can decrease your risk of having a heart attack by as much as 40 percent and risk of having a stroke by seven percent. Plus, foods highest in fiber – fruits, leafy green vegetables, nuts and whole grains – are the same foods that contain other health-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Drink a little more water
As we age, our thirst for water can decrease, so it’s important for seniors to make sure they’re drinking enough water during the day to avoid dehydration. Not only that but a lack of water can lead to fatigue, confusion, dry mouth and labored speech. Dehydration can also cause dry skin, arthritis, muscle fatigue and problems with kidney function. Seniors are encouraged to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day and to eat a diet of “water-rich” foods, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
Move a little more
Exercise – whether it be classes at the local recreation center, walks around the neighborhood or chair exercises at home – is essential to overall health and well-being. Exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness, can increase energy levels, can reduce stress and anxiety and can even improve memory and brain function. Aerobic exercise, which can include swimming, dancing, walking and bicycling can not only improve circulation but can lower risk of heart attack. Strengthening exercises activities, such as chair squats, wall push-ups or even lifting groceries, can decrease risk of osteoporosis. And stretching exercises help seniors maintain flexibility.