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Last updated October 24, 2016 (originally published February 28, 2012)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

What do you see when you look in the mirror at 50? A few
gray hairs? A smattering of wrinkles? A bit more fat round
the belly? We all age differently – some gracefully, some
not so much – but you are likely to see quite a few changes
as you move into your fifth decade.

But while crows feet may cause you concern, it’s what’s
inside that counts. Unseen changes are affecting your
body. For example, did you know that your body loses
some of its ability to absorb certain vitamins after age 50?

Some of the changes that occur at age 50 will affect
long you live and how well you age in the future. Signs of
aging don’t stop at wrinkles but include memory loss,
decreased flexibility, and increased risk of serious diseases
like heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

The good news is you can stop some of these negative
changes and defend against aging unhealthily. The diet you
choose is critical – many studies document the link between
diet and the prevention of age-related disease.

Unfortunately you can’t follow the same diet you did at age
30 and expect to be trim, fit and healthy after age 50. You
need to make certain diet changes are required, but what
are they exactly? How do you adjust your diet to be
healthy at 50 and long into the future?

After scouring  recent scientific research, we have compiled
the top five things you can do to give your diet a 50-plus

Make a Bone-Friendly Food Switch – Get More Calcium
and Vitamin D

Osteoporosis is a national concern - over 52 million US men
and women aged 50 and above suffer from the bone-
thinning disease
osteoporosis, according to the National
Osteoporosis Foundation.

That’s more than half of the people over 50 in the United

As you age, your bones lose their mineral content much
more quickly and you are at increased risk of fractures.
Women are particularly at risk of osteoporosis because
menopause depletes estrogen, which increases bone loss.
(Read more about
natural remedies for osteoporosis.)

You need to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake
when you hit 50 (and if you do it before, even better.) The
National Institutes of Health with the National Osteoporosis
Foundation suggest you get 1,200mg of calcium a day
when you are 50 or over.

Unfortunately, only 32% of people in the US get the daily
recommended "adequate intake" of calcium, according to a
2010 study led by DR. Regan Bailey of the Office of Dietary
Supplements and National Cancer Institute, a part of the
National Institutes of Health.

Calcium-rich foods include skim milk (around 300mg per 8-
ounce glass), plain yogurt (415mg per 8-ounce serving),
orange juice (378mg per 6-ounces), sardines (around
300mg per serving), spinach (291mg per cup) and salmon
(181mg for 3-ounces). Switch your breakfast cereals to
calcium-enriched sources, and choose calcium-enriched
products like milk powder and cereal bars.

You also need to increase your levels of
vitamin D, which
helps your body absorb the calcium. Exposure to the sun is
usually enough to meet the demand but as you get older
you should consume extra vitamin D from food or
supplements, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for
Americans. Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon,
sardines, mackerel, eggs and fortified cereals. You may
need to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement.

Eat a Mediterranean Diet

When you reach age 50, your cardiovascular system has
become less efficient. Your heart has to work harder to
push the blood around your body and your blood vessels
are losing their elasticity. You are more at risk of
atherosclerosis – fatty deposits inside the arteries that
narrow the passageways and can cause high blood
pressure, stroke and heart disease.

What can you do about it? Promote heart health at age 50
by following a Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet is
filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil
and it skips saturated fats and high-fat, pre-packaged
foods. A 2011 study from Maastricht University Medical
Centre, Netherlands following a Mediterranean diet along
with not smoking, maintaining a normal weight and getting
regular exercise substantially reduces premature mortality
in women and men.

A Mediterranean diet may also help prevent
memory loss
cognitive decline as you age. A 2010 study from the
Taub Institute for Research of Alzheimer's Disease and
Aging Brain, Columbia University, New York find adherence
to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a significantly
lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease – compared to people
who adhere least to the Mediterranean diet, people who
follow it most closely have a 34 percent lower risk of
Alzheimer’s disease.

Get More Fiber at 50

At age 50, your digestive system probably bothers you
more than it ever did in your thirties and forties.
Constipation is much more common in people aged 50 and
above, caused by lack of fiber, not enough fluids, lack of
exercise, medications and certain medical conditions like
diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.

Increase your fiber intake by eating plenty of fresh fruit
and fresh vegetables. Switch your grains to whole grains –
eat whole grain bread, choose brown rice and eat whole
grain pasta. Also, don’t forget to drink enough water and
keep up your exercise routine.

Fiber intake can also help protect against heart disease,
cancers and diabetes, plus some respiratory diseases. A
2011 study from the National Cancer Institute showed
people who ate a high fiber diet were less at risk of dying
than those who ate less fiber. The study looked at men and
women between the ages of 50 and 71. Those that ate at
least 26g of fiber a day were 22 percent less likely to die
than those who ate 13g or less per day. According to the
Archives of Internal Medicine, people in the US consume,
on average, less than 50 percent of the recommended level
of around 28g per day.

Eat Soy – But Only if You’re a Woman

Soy is lauded for its cardiovascular benefits, bone
strengthening abilities, and menopause assistance post-50.
Soy is found in tofu, soy beans, soy milk, miso and tempeh.

A 2007 study from the University of Messina, Italy showed
genistein – a soy compound – helped strengthen the bones
of post-menopausal women suffering from
osteopenia (a
condition that often comes before osteoporosis). However,
other research urges caution if you are eating a lot of soy
and little calcium – certain compounds in soy can “collect”
calcium and render it unavailable to the body for bone-

Men should exercise caution when consuming soy over the
age of 50. Soy can reduce testosterone levels, which are
already declining steadily after the age of 40 - around 39
percent of men over the age of 45 suffer from low
testosterone, according to the Austin Urology Institute.
Results from a 2003 study from University Hospital of
Wales, Cardiff, UK, a 2011 study from Beth Israel Medical
Deaconess Center, Harvard Medical School and a 2000
study from Monash University, Clayton, Australia showed
soy could contribute to lowered testosterone levels.
According to the Monash University study, soy supplements
improved menopausal symptoms and increased estrogen
levels in women so if you’re female and over 50, try to
increase your soy consumption for added health benefits.

Increase Your Vitamin B12 Intake Post-50

Did you know that just turning age 50 puts you at greater
risk for anemia? Many people over the age of 50 are at high
risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency (
anemia), according to the 2005 Harvard Health Letter.

For several reasons, your stomach changes at age 50. Most
people over age 50 suffer from a lack of something called
"intrinsic factor", a protein needed to increase the ability of
your stomach lining to absorb vitamin B-12.

Also, experts say up to 30 percent of people aged over 50
suffer from atrophic gastritis, a condition which causes the
thinning of the stomach lining and reduces the amount of
vitamin B12 absorbed by the small intestine. Vitamin B12
deficiency can cause cognitive and neurological changes,
memory loss, anemia and dementia.

Also, having
atrophic gastritis puts you at an 89% greater
risk for osteoporosis, according to a 2014 study from the
College of Medicine of Korea University.

A 2012 study from The University of Melbourne, Victoria,
Australia shows low vitamin B12 levels are associated with
neurodegenerative disease and cognitive impairment. In
addition, a small subset of dementias are reversible with
vitamin B12 therapy, however, this therapy won’t improve
cognition in over-50s who don’t have an existing deficiency.

Get vitamin B12 from fish, meat and chicken. If you’re a
vegetarian or vegan, or you are at high risk of deficiency
then supplements and fortified breakfast cereals will help
fill the gap and improve your health.


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