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How to change your lifestyle to age better

For lack of having discovered the biomedical secret of longevity, the old recipes remain the most reliable way to add life to the years. They are based on two solid pillars: eating well and having regular physical activity.

Earn 4 years by moving

The effectiveness of the exercise is no longer to be demonstrated. Evidenced by the collective expertise of Inserm, entitled Physical activity, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Published in 2019, it lists the benefits of sports practice, even moderate, on the body. “Physical activity is multi-target, explains Professor Martine Duclos, head of the sports medicine department at Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital. It acts on all the elements involved in the aging process. It is estimated that regular physical activity alone allows us to gain 4 years of additional healthy life.»

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As you age, one of the first benefits of exercise is muscle. “From the thirties, we lose muscle, but past the sixties, the phenomenon accelerates. We will lose muscle strength faster than mass.“says Martine Duclos. However, muscle is a protective factor, especially in everyday life: to do and carry groceries, catch the bus, get around, have a social life or simply go up and down stairs. “This is what will allow us to get up if we fall, but above all to prevent falls which, in 30% of cases, are accompanied by hospitalization. However, this is often the gateway to the sliding syndrome. [effondrement rapide de l’état général d’une personne très âgée, à l’issue fatale, NDLR]“says the specialist. The practice of a physical activity avoids this vicious circle and preserves our autonomy. It is also our best ally in countering osteoporosis, especially in women whose bone loss is greater after menopause. Not to mention its essential role in cardiovascular prevention. “It protects the arteries by acting on modifiable risk factors, namely arterial hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes or even overweight, associated with a balanced diet.“, illustrates Professor Duclos. According to Inserm, having regular physical activity reduces the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 40%.

By promoting the production of anti-inflammatory hormones, sports practice also helps to limit the risk of cancer. “It slows down and reduces cognitive decline. Finally, sport provides well-being, promotes sleep and even has a painkiller effect. There is a benefit to resuming physical activity at all ages“, insists Martine Duclos. For those who may not have had time to get started before, retirement may even be a good time to start. As you age, you need to have a daily activity, articulated around endurance (walking, cycling, swimming, etc.), muscle building (carrying weights, or failing that, full water bottles, or using rubber bands, etc.) and, for women between 50 and 65, rebound exercises “to stimulate bone synthesis“, advises Professor Duclos. This ranges from water gymnastics to badminton via Pilates or jogging. It is also advisable to work on flexibility, after each activity, coordination (ball game) and balance (standing on one foot, then on the other). To avoid injury, you have to warm up and train gradually, listening to your feelings. Alone or in a group, we choose an activity adapted to our abilities and, above all, that we like, a sine qua non condition for feeling good and motivated.

Sufficient and varied food

Physical activity must be coupled with a diversified diet. Indeed, nutrition is linked to the quality of aging. “A balanced and varied diet makes it possible to cover all the needs in micro and macronutrients and thus to avoid a certain number of pathologies“says Florence Foucaut, nutritionist dietician. You should not eat less as you age, but better. “It’s true that between the ages of 30 and 55, many French people eat too much. The objective is to have intakes in line with our needs, taking into account the physiological particularities linked to age, such as the loss of lean mass or a declining absorption of nutrients. It is therefore necessary to be very vigilant both on the quantity and on the quality of the contributions“, she adds. For the same physical activity, an elderly subject needs 20% more energy than a young person. If eating well is eating enough, it is above all eating a bit of everything. Only a diversified diet will avoid deficiencies, which are detrimental to people whose immune defenses are weakened. Well endowed with vitamins and fibre, fruits and vegetables are essential, especially for maintaining a stable weight and promoting transit, which is sometimes slowed down with age. “They also contain polyphenols, i.e. antioxidants that would protect against a number of pathologies, including cancer.», Details Florence Foucaut. It also encourages the consumption of foods rich in Omega 3, in the prevention of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases: “They are found in oily fish, nuts, rapeseed, walnut, flaxseed oils, and purslane“. Also think about legumes which prevent diabetes and cholesterol. The only downside is that they are high in fiber. In case of irritation, Florence Foucaut suggests mixing them. In any case, they should not be forgotten, because they are a source of vegetable protein which, added to the protein intake of meat, preferably white meat, fish, cheese or eggs, will slow down muscle wasting.

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With age, calcium and vitamin D are often deficient. However, they are essential to preserve our bone capital, vitamin D contributing to the good mineralization of calcium. “The absorption of calcium is slower and the synthesis of vitamin D, via exposure to the sun, more difficult, reports nutritionist Florence Foucaut. Therefore, dairy products should not be neglected. And in general, vitamin D supplements are prescribed for the elderly.Few foods contain it: cod liver oil, fatty fish, offal, egg yolk or, to a lesser extent, shiitake.

Admittedly, the consumption of salt, meats and alcohol must be contained, in particular to prevent high blood pressure, a major cardiovascular risk factor, but at the table, it is important to have fun. As long as your weight isn’t shifting and your blood pressure is stabilized, it’s okay to put grated cheese in the soup or finish your meal with a square of dark chocolate.