By Eileen Johnson
We all know the importance of staying active, even during the coldest months of the year. Were you aware that it is crucial to your health to maintain or build muscle strength into older years? Research has shown that as we age, particularly as we enter the 40’s, we start to lose muscle strength, endurance, and mass. Loss of muscle size and strength can trigger a downward cycle of decreased physical activity, insulin resistance and type two diabetes, obesity, cholesterol imbalance, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It also can result in bone loss and a general increased frailty of health and likelihood of injury.
Research is showing how we can reverse much of this loss through consistent and carefully crafted lifestyle habits! Here are four points to keep in mind:
- A Healthy Cardiovascular System.
The cardiovascular system can have more difficulty carrying nutrients such as protein to the muscles as we age, so pay attention to the health of that system. Your practitioner can help you judge cardiovascular health either through traditional medical testing or what is termed “Functional” Testing. https://www.functionalmedicine.org/about/whatisfm/ . Include 5-10 antioxidant food sources, especially fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Omega 3 Fatty acids found in fish, flax, walnuts and greens are important for keeping blood vessels and the heart healthy and strong. Forget the sugar and refined carbohydrates!
- Protein is a key to building strong muscle!
Dr. Frank Lipman, MD and Functional/Integrative Medicine expert,
http://www.drfranklipman.com/4-ways-to-build-muscle-as-you-age, emphasizes the need to include plenty of protein from healthy sources including grass-fed or pasture-raised beef, chicken and turkey. Eggs from free-range or organic pasture raised chickens can also boost protein levels. Healthy, non-meat sources of protein include beans, greens and whey powder. Unless you are experiencing kidney problems, he recommends consuming half your body weight minus 10 grams of protein if you remain very active.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a 2005 article about Aging Muscle, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/5/953.full, states that resistance training can increase nerve cells connecting the brain and muscle, increase hormones that promote muscle growth and improve the body’s ability to make use of protein in the diet. Dr. Lipman suggests including aerobic exercise because of its benefits to the cardiovascular system. Get your doctor’s approval if you have any health issues and make use of a skilled trainer or physical therapist if you have previous injuries or are just starting an exercise routine.
- Stress relief!
Prolonged stress can hamper your work to build muscle. It can change hormone balance, increase blood sugar and fat deposition and promote poor eating habits. Treat yourself regularly to Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, meditation or deep breathing to release muscle robbing stress.