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The Over-40 Guide to Living Longer (and Better!)

By Meryl Davids Landau

Eat more chocolate. Attend more concerts. Take more vacations. Making your health a priority is easier-and more pleasant-than you think. If you're past 40, it's not too late; it's prime time to slip key habits into your life. Here's a to-do list to get you started today.

What You Can Do Today

  • Add some weight. If you’ve never hefted a hand weight, start today. Most of the loss of strength that we label aging is actually the result of disuse, notes Lawrence Golding, Ph.D., director of the exercise physiology laboratory at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. To stay strong (and maintain bones), schedule training daily, alternating muscle groups. To follow Golding’s exercise program, visit www.lAgolding.com.
  • Eat more, gain less. Start supper by eating a big, Mediterranean-inspired salad. You’ll take in fewer calories overall than if you skipped the starter, says David L. Katz, M.D., of Yale University School of Medicine. Mix a variety of greens with a rainbow of vegetables (red grape tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers), top it with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting the USDA’s recommended daily intake of fruits and veggies, now up to nine servings.
  • Build your bones. You may like milk, but it takes five glasses to hit the 1,500 mg daily calcium target for post-menopausal women (1,200 mg for premenopausal women). Most of us miss the mark. In fact, a report says that in the near future, half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk for fractures. Eating foods rich in calcium is a good start, but you may want to take a 1,000 mg calcium supplement, says Elizabeth Dupuis, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine. Other options: Chew on Tums or Viactiv calcium squares, or make that latte a double (low-fat milk, not espresso). Don’t forget nondairy sources such as spinach and arugula.
  • Check your posture. Program an hourly reminder on your computer or personal digital assistant to pull your abs in and your shoulders back. Slumping can cause muscle tension, fatigue, and even pain.
  • Train your brain. In 2002, Paula Hartman-Stein, Ph.D., president of the Center for Healthy Aging in Kent, Ohio, spent three months studying for a spelling bee. In the process, the 53-year-old clinical psychologist noticed a distinct sharpening of her cognitive skills. You can get a similar mental edge from a regular challenge such as solving a word puzzle, playing a chess game, or attempting a new language. Learning can create pathways in the brain and stave off age-related memory loss, says Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., coauthor of Keep Your Brain Alive (Workman, 1998).
  • Be active. Schedule moderate-intensity aerobic workouts, such as walking or a step class, that last at least one minute for each birthday you’ve celebrated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least 30 minutes a day for general health, but for weight loss or even maintenance, more time is necessary. Make a half-hour your starting line, not limit. Working up to 60 or 90 minutes lets you incorporate flexibility and strength training into your routine, says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, Ph.D., head of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Continued on Page 2: What You Can Do This Week
 
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