Life begins after your first half century. For many of us, age 50 is not the end of the road; it’s the beginning. If you can relate to this, consider what new ventures you have undertaken since you turned 50, 60, or 70. I know a number of women that are having the best sex ever at this stage of life. They have linked up with wonderful partners in creative ways such as internet dating, working out at the gym, joining volunteer groups, getting out to entirely new environments, or by enlisting the support of friends.
A fun-filled and inspiring new book is Senior Fitness by Ruth Heidrich, PhD (Lantern Books, 2005, available at Banyen and other bookstores). This particular Dr. Ruth, who divides her time between British Columbia (White Rock) and Honolulu is an inspiration in herself; she has held 3 world records for her age group at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas and has won eight gold medals in the Senior Olympics. Ruth had breast cancer at age 47, made some life style changes, and now has been cancer-free for over 2 decades.
Ruth makes the point that the top killers of Canadians are to a great extent preventable by changes in our diet and exercise habits. Even impotence can be diet-related, as a reduction in blood flow to the penis, common in men who have hardening of the arteries, poses distinct challenges when it comes to sex. Use of drugs including tobacco and alcohol make matters worse. Being put on pharmaceutical drugs is the band-aid approach, not a cure for the underlying problems. Clearing the arteries, which can be done by a clean diet, exercise, and smoke-free lifestyle, is a potent solution. Many women sail through menopause, barely noticing the change and then proceed smoothly without a reliance on hormones such as horse estrogen. New research is exploring the gentler effects of similar plant estrogens derived from flaxseeds (lignans).
In my own experience, making exercise a regular habit has proven benefits. At age 50 I headed off for a 17,000 foot pass in the Himalaya with a few friends. At 60, I began annual participation in triathlons. Last year when my car died, I decided not to replace it, and now use a bike. Though vegan, I make sure my calcium intake meets recommended intakes, and my bone density is holding its own. Ruth has actually shown improved bone density since age 50, but she is a master athlete whereas I just potter along happily for an hour a day of some sort of exercise; mainly weight bearing.
Many of us find that as we get older, we get fatter, at the rate of a pound or two a year. How do we keep our weight in check? Plenty of options are advertised, though most are doomed to failure. Recorded attempts at dieting began a thousand years ago when William the Conqueror, King of England, found he could no longer ride his horse because he was too fat. He decided to try a fluid diet and stayed in bed drinking alcoholic beverages instead of eating food. His attempts met with some success, as he was eventually able to get back on his horse. However, success was mixed because within the year, he fell off his horse and died.
A better choice is to center your meals on simple, natural plant foods, plenty of them raw. Here is Ruth’s “Recipe for Health”.
Recipe for Health
Head for a farmer’s market, choose organic produce, wash it, cut it up, and enjoy it. (Keep water and a picnic kit in your car.) Run, or power walk, to a nearby berry patch. Eat the seeds in grapes, citrus, and watermelons. Gorge on strawberries straight up—it isn’t necessary (or even beneficial) to make them into strawberry shortcake. Drink plenty of water. Ensure a reliable source of vitamin B12. Instead of your morning coffee, try different herbal teas or tablespoon of organic blackstrap molasses in hot water. For breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, choose the foods listed below, plus other fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that you enjoy.
Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian and author based near Fort Langley. She is co-author of Becoming Raw, The Raw Food Revolution Diet, “The New Becoming Vegetarian” (US title), “Becoming Vegetarian” (Canadian title), Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children, and the Food Allergy Survival Guide. For personal consultations call 604-888-8325 (clinic) or 604-882-6782 (home office); web www.nutrispeak.com.