Healthy steps for seniors

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I’m 65 years old, widowed, and should be retiring soon. I’ve been with MFP for several years, and I find that it’s been very helpful. I’ve never taken advantage of any of these discussions before, but I find I really am needing to connect with other people in my food bracket. I love to travel, and I want to be able to walk and see the things on my bucket list. I’ve lost about 65 pounds over the past year and I’m ready to get out there and see the world. Is anyone else up there in my situation? I feel as though I need to be strong, and I would really like to be able to rely on my knees and my hips working properly. Recently, I’ve been trying to stick to a Mediterranean diet with a very small amount of red meat. I’ve done vegetarian before and I really would like to continue but I’m afraid about getting enough protein and building the muscle I need.

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  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,055 Member
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    I'm 68, female, lost 50-ish pounds back in 2015-16 using MFP, have been maintaining a healthy weight since. I'm a widow since 1998, and have been retired for quite a few years already. I was very sedentary until after full-bore cancer treatment in my mid-40s, then gradually became active and actually sort of athletic, but I stayed fat for another dozen years. I'm still pretty active, and probably fitter than average for our demographic. I've been ovo-lacto vegetarian since 1974.

    Eating some meat, fish or seafood does make it easier to get adequate protein, but my experience is that it's possible as a vegetarian. I think I could do it fully plant based, but I like my dairy foods too much to do that, and my Northern European genes seem to let my body handle dairy just fine. Because of being active (and carrying more than average muscle mass for our demographic from being active), I do have a fairly high maintenance calorie level. I make it a point to get a minimum of 100g protein daily, and usually get more. (As context, I'm 5'5", weigh in the lower 130s pounds now, up a little from my ideal mid-120s since the holidays.)

    I don't use protein powder, protein bars, or the new commercial fake meats. I don't think there's anything wrong with those, but I don't personally find them tasty or satisfying so I worked on getting adequate protein from my food. If you're coming up short, adding protein powder to things could be a good strategy, as a transitional aid until you can get more from food, or permanently if it works well for you. It's a pretty popular method here.

    I do have bad knees (torn meniscus) and iffy hips (osteoarthritis there and elsewhere, osteoporosis), and will probably need knee and maybe hip surgery someday, but I'm deferring it as long as possible. (Weight loss and getting stronger helped with that for sure.)

    There's a good resource here for identifying protein sources:

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10247171/carbs-and-fats-are-cheap-heres-a-guide-to-getting-your-proteins-worth-fiber-also

    The linked spreadsheet is pretty meaty/fishy near the top, but there are plant foods as you scroll down.

    This is IMO a useful resource about protein needs/strategies for those of us 60+:

    https://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(13)00326-5/fulltext

    Are you strength training? That's the best, most efficient way to build muscle, though that will be a patience-requiring process for us demographically. It will be slower still if still in a calorie deficit, but is always worth doing. (I'm not very good at taking my own advice in this regard, but I do lift some, and do a strength-y-er form of cardio routinely.)

    Do you have specific issues you're struggling with now, or current goals? It isn't clear from your OP whether you've finished losing weight, what your exercise or daily activity routines are, etc., so I'm not sure whether or how I might be able to help. For sure, you and I have some similarities in circumstances, though.

    Wishing you much success, whatever your goals may be!
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,886 Member
    edited January 16
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    To avoid sarcopenia and the problems associated with simple tasks like walking as we age basically comes down to exercise or a history of the lack of and specifically weight bearing exercise and calisthenics which helps to stabilize and restore balance and specifically in our lower body and legs.

    A simple exercise to see how you stack up overall is a simple step up exercise to a platform 1 foot off the ground. If you can't without a boost from the other leg to assist in that process, or an assistance from hands on knees for example, in other words a basically clean step up without any problem or on the negative step down slowly under where a 3 count is smooth and without struggle and where you just don't collapse to ground level.

    If a person struggles and can't do this simple exercise you can bet that if they encounter a slip or a snag where that person falls forward the chance they fall is an extremely common occurrence and when that happens the chances of bones breaking is also quite common in the older population and the recovery is dismal. If that person needed some assistance to get around like a cane for example, they'll probably need a walker and if that person used a walker then a wheelchair was probably in their future. More so than diet, exercise is where the focus should be for any older person that is experiencing fragility and are concerned. Another simple movement that is important and a lens into a persons overall fitness is to lay face down and proceed to get up to the standing position without the assistance from your arms, shoulders or head. If you can't do one or both i suggest to seek out a physiotherapist or other professional to assist you, it could save you from some pretty bad recovery time in the last years of our lives. 3 hours a week of exercise is the best investment in your future and exercise is compounded annually.

    Diet, well I'm biased and protein should be the main focus, and quality protein which to me is lean animal meats and it doesn't have to be red meat if you believe that is problematic. Can a vegetarian or vegan diet supply enough quality protein where your not searching for inventive ways to circumvent that lack of protein, I'm not convinced but regardless of what I think I do wish you luck doing that.