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Survey: Healthy Habits Are Motivating People Over 50 

Get the expert nutrition tips you need to stay healthy and strong through the years.

Nutrition and Aging
Oct 24 2017

If you had the chance, what's the one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

For 27 percent of men and women over 50, it's "eat healthier," according to a survey from the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) and Abbott. That number is nearly the same amount (30 percent) who said, “start saving for retirement earlier.” While you might not be able to turn back the clock and convince your teenage self to eat those Brussels sprouts, the survey found that more people today are realizing it’s never too late to take control of their health with good nutrition and physical activity.

The survey asked 600 adults over 50 years old about their motivators, priorities and concerns in life, and revealed that healthy aging is the number-one priority – even over financial stability.

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Motivated by Independence
Nearly three-fourths of men and women over 50 said that keeping their independence is their main motivator for staying healthy and active. Enjoying travel and family time are two other list-toppers, according to the survey.

Abby Sauer, RD, a registered dietitian with Abbott who specializes in healthy aging, explains however that there’s a surprising aging factor that can put your independence at jeopardy: muscle loss.

After age 40, adults can lose up to eight percent of their muscle mass per decade.1-4 
To improve your muscle health and strength, nutrition can help. In fact, many experts suggest that older adults should consume roughly 1.5 - 2 times the amount of protein they did in their younger years. Sauer recommends good protein sources such as meat, dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts, while protein shakes can be an easy way to increase your protein intake when you're on-the-go or if your appetite just isn't very high.

Overcoming the Fear of Health Setbacks
The biggest fear for adults 50 and older is experiencing a health setback – such as a fall– according to the survey's findings.

Looking at your eating habits, and the nutrients you consume, can help settle fears. For example, Vitamin D and calcium are well-known for helping to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones, it turns out that both nutrients also play a large role in both bone and muscle health, according to Sauer.

While vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in all adults, it tends to be even more prevalent in older adults and is linked to significantly greater chances of falling and suffering injuries from those falls.

To increase your daily calcium intake, turn to dairy, sardines, soy and salmon. Eggs, fortified dairy and some fish contain vitamin D, but it can often be tough to get enough through foods alone. Talk to your doctor to determine if you need a vitamin D or calcium supplement to complement your diet.

The Power of Positivity
Whether it’s getting through your daily routine, or helping to bounce back from a health setback, don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. The survey found that a majority of those surveyed believed that a good attitude could impact your health.  

Bonus: Research has backed this up. A study found that having a positive mindset about aging can add around seven years to your life!

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Survey conducted by Clarus Research with support from Abbott. The online survey interviewed a nationally representative sample of 600 men and women over 50 years old during August 2017.

Cruz-Jentoft AJ, et al. Age Ageing 2010;39(4):412-423.
Baier, S, etal. J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2009;33(1):71-82.
Flakoll P, et al. Nutrition 2004;20(5):445-451.
Grimby G, et al. Acta Physiol Scan 1982;115(1):125-134.
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