If you’re a man over 50, it’s probably more difficult for you to rebound from a bucket of wings, a doughnut binge or a six-pack of beer than in your younger days. Bad habits take more of a toll as you age.
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Don’t wait until you have high blood pressure or gain 50 pounds to make a change. Healthy habits and smart lifestyle choices can make you look and feel years younger — and, more important, live longer.
1. Cut the salt for heart health
Here’s a shocker: One in 10 deaths in U.S. adults are connected to eating too much salt. Sixty percent of those deaths occur in men. Too much sodium and too little potassium raise your blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease. Cutting back on sodium bombs such as bread, cheese and processed foods can lower your risk. Add more heart-healthy leafy greens to your diet, and get more potassium through foods such as bananas. As a bonus, you’ll get fewer wrinkles.
2. Stay sharp
Want to keep your wits as you age? A large body of evidence connects diet in mid-life to the risk of dementia and other cognitive disorders in later years. One 2011 study found an association between a Mediterranean-diet of healthy unsaturated fats and few saturated fats with a reduced risk of mental decline. Get more unsaturated fats through fish, vegetable oils and nuts.
3. Keep your bones strong
Osteoporosis is not just a woman’s disease. Men lose bone mass after age 50, too. You may benefit from supplemental calcium and probiotics in the diet. A recent study in The Journal of Cellular Physiology found a connection between probiotic supplements and increased bone density in male mice. Researchers from the study commented that probiotics may help treat osteoporosis in the future, in addition to aiding digestive health.
4. Stick with water for prostate health
When it comes to satisfying your taste buds, most men prefer soda over water. But the consequences to your future health may not be worth the extra flavor. New research suggests that 180,000 deaths per year may be related to sugary soft drinks. For men specifically, soda may increase your risk for prostate cancer on top of contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes. If you want to flavor your water, add some lemon berries, or add a little fizz with carbonated water.
5. For sexual health, go natural
If you think red meat is manly and vegetables are wimpy, forget it — especially if you want a healthy love life. Eating too much red meat can clog your arteries and bump up your levels of bad LDL cholesterol, both of which can cause erectile dysfunction. For better performance, get more protein from plants and powerhouses such as black and red kidney beans, and cut back on red meat, refined sugars and trans fat.
Aging will happen no matter what you do, but you can age with grace and good health with the right diet and plenty of exercise. Just remember: It’s never too late to start making good decisions.
Brigid Titgemeier, nutrition assistant at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, contributed to this article.