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.
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.
Here’s a shocker: According to a 2013 study, 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.
Want to keep your wits as you age? The MIND diet (which includes whole grains, vegetables, salad, nuts, beans, berries and some chicken and fish) may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later years. Studies also show the importance of eating healthy fats.
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 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. Probiotics can also be found in fermented foods and dairy products with live active enzymes (if taking a pill does not suit you).
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. Some 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. Also, consider adding apple peels, turmeric and red grapes to your diet. Recent studies show they are promising foods for the prostate.
If you regularly snack on baked goods, whether sweet or salty, you may want to cut back — especially if you want a healthy love life. Eating too much trans fat can contribute to clogged arteries and bump up your levels of bad LDL cholesterol, both of which can cause erectile dysfunction. For better performance, focus on eating protein and healthy fats and cut back on 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 Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, contributed to this article.