Common sense tells everyone that maintaining good health as we age will lead to a more fulfilling retirement. Now we’re seeing more and more studies showing how what we eat, how often we exercise, mental activities and other factors all combine to promote healthy aging. For instance, you can have a heart that functions like it’s 15 years younger just by cutting back on your daily calorie intake.
A group of researchers in St. Louis found that people who limit their daily calorie intake to the 1400-2000 range (about 25% less than the typical 2000 to 3000 range of most of us) had hearts that were much younger. So imagine being 65 years old with the heart of a 50-year old; talk about only being as old as you feel! Now there’s scientific evidence to support some of our “old sayings.”
One of the researchers, Luigi Fontana from Washington University, noted that the average lifespan for a person from a Western country is about 80. But unfortunately the typical person’s health begins to falter around age 50. That means on average about 30 years of declining health, and much of it coming during the retirement years. Fontana’s research is trying to close the gap between average lifespan and healthspan.
So future and current retirees take note: eating less now may mean better health as you age. While the goal of a calorie restriction program like this isn’t necessarily weight loss per se, it can certainly be one of the side benefits as well. And from there you can imagine many other side benefits for retirees—less body weight leading to lower stress on your joints, a sense of more energy throughout the day, a more active lifestyle in retirement, etc. Fontana’s study also showed that dietary restriction caused changes in the body that help to protect it against diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
You can find good calories in vegetables, whole grains, skim milk and lean meat. Try to avoid empty calories in white bread, pop and candy. In this case, better eating really does lead to healthier living. And that’s something we all want that in our retirement years. Eating better now is one simple way to maximize your retirement readiness.