Your heart doctor may ask if you’re avoiding saturated fat or what you’re doing to control your weight. But doctors seldom ask, are you taking care of your heart health?
We lose about 5% of our total muscle mass every decade after age 30. But science shows those who retain muscle as they age lower their risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, all risk factors for heart disease.
AARP developed “The Whole Body Reset,” a program designed to stop and reverse age-related muscle loss and weight gain and improve heart health.
The primary cause of age-related muscle loss is anabolic resistance – essentially, we can’t turn the protein we eat into muscle as efficiently as we used to. Older people need higher doses of protein at every meal, 25 grams for women or 30 grams for men. Anything less, and your body remains in muscle-loss mode. Fat starts to win out, and heart health suffers.
In addition to protein, we need a mix of high fiber grains, high nutrient fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats to keep heart-harming, fat-promoting inflammation under control.
Here’s your plan.
Eat 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Make sure every snack has some protein: cheese on a cracker, peanut butter and apple. Women should aim for at least 75-100 grams of total protein every day, while men should shoot for 90-120 grams.
Up your intake of high fiber grains, cereals and beans.
In one study following 2,735 people, those who ate the least amount of fiber were 2.9 times as likely to die from inflammatory diseases such as heart disease. Research has found that for every additional 10 grams of fiber you eat per day, you reduce your risk of stroke by 12%.
Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables.
Aim for eight-10 small servings a day. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and thousands of micronutrients called phytochemicals, all needed for heart health. As we age, our ability to extract these nutrients from food diminishes, another reason why inflammation increases.
Enjoy healthy fats and oils from seafood, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados.
Two servings a day will help keep you lean and sharp, whether you’re enjoying a serving of salmon, a spoonful of peanut butter, some chips and guacamole, or toasty bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil.
Focus on fortified dairy.
Eat calcium rich dairy (low fat or not). One study found that three servings of whole fat dairy helped lower risks of heart disease and stroke. Dairy also delivers muscle building protein.
Don’t drink your calories (or chemicals).
You’re not doing yourself a favor drinking diet soda, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, dementia, and stroke. Keep it simple with filtered water, sparkling water, tea and coffee (it’s fine to add a little milk).