Tips for living your best life after age 50

Feb 2, 2014

Maybe you've taken your good health for granted. But once you turn 50, all bets are off. What you do during this decade will set the stage for a life of continued wellness or one of gradual but irreversible decline. But it's never too late to do the right thing for your body.

This week on Take Care, Huffington Post and AARP columnist Barbara Hannah Grufferman shares three essential tips for staying healthy after age 50. Grufferman has interviewed experts from around the field, and from her findings, she wrote a book called “The Best of Everything After 50.” She also serves as host of "The Best of Everything" on AARP's YouTube Channel.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Barbara Hannah Grufferman.

“Getting a little older, our bodies are not quite as forgiving. Everything is a little bit more challenging just across the board,” Grufferman said. “But it doesn’t have to be quite that difficult. You just need to take a few steps that we all can take, really, to get ourselves ready. And we want to be able to do all the things we want to do, as well as all the things we need to do as we get older.”

Grufferman has three tips for living the best possible life over 50: keep bones healthy, get rid of visceral, or midsection, fat, and avoid sun exposure.

1. Good bone health

When it comes to bone health, Grufferman says strong bones are essential to avoiding major fractures and breaks, a key to living well over 50.

“If you’re over 50 the odds are you’ll experience a major fracture because of osteoporosis at some point in your life. For women it’s 1-in-2. For men it’s a little less, 1-in-6. We start to lose muscle mass and bone density an average of one percent every year, but after 50 really it speeds up,” Grufferman said. “If you fall, which can happen a little more frequently when you’re older, you probably will break a bone.”

To avoid potential bone breaks, Grufferman recommends a few methods for keeping bones strong. The first is eating calcium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens and yogurt. She also advises those over 50 to meet with their doctor to check bone density and ensure calcium is being properly absorbed by the body.

Taking a daily vitamin D supplement is another important part of maintaining good bone health, especially since the sun, another source of vitamin D, should be avoided (more about that soon). 

But having strong bones isn’t just about diet. Grufferman says simple weight-bearing exercise is also important. These exercises don’t need to be anything fancy. She recommends walking, running, pushups and planks.

2. Keep off visceral fat

According to Grufferman, visceral, or midsection, fat is dangerous since it can wrap around vital organs. It is gained quickly, so it can also quickly lead to obesity, which is associated with many diseases. But Grufferman says the good news is that visceral fat is not only gained fast, but it can also be lost fast if the right steps are taken.

Grufferman says the best way to lose visceral fat is to cut out junk foods and other fatty parts of your diet. But, as was also the case with bone health, it takes more than a change in diet. Exercise is also important for losing this dangerous fat.

Grufferman says a step counter can be a good way to encourage yourself to get moving. She says the goal is to have 10 thousand steps per day.

“If you do that and slow down on the eating and also especially slow down on the junk food eating and high fat and high caloric eating you will see that visceral fat will disappear,” Grufferman said.

3. Avoid sun exposure

Avoiding sun exposure is more than just putting on sunscreen at the beach. Grufferman says putting on sunscreen every day is essential.

“Put it in places you don’t expect: on your earlobes, on the top of your head, all over your face. Mix it with your moisturizer,” Grufferman said. “Don’t let your skin be exposed to the sun anymore, especially in the middle of the day in the summer.”

Skin cancer is on the rise for this age group since many 50-year-olds did not wear sunscreen when they were younger. Grufferman said this makes it important that people over 50 protect their skin now.