Are you wondering how your metabolic health is affected by aging? Even though the aging process may impact many aspects of how you feel and function, staying metabolically healthy is still within reach.
Metabolic Health and Aging
What is metabolic health, anyway? Your metabolism is more than just the rate at which you burn energy. Metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions taking place in your body to keep you alive.
Your metabolism includes all kinds of work your body does, such as:
- Making and regulating hormones
- Digesting and processing nutrients from foods
- Regulating the immune system
- Mood and cognition
- Regulating stress response
- Regulating blood sugar
As you age, you may be concerned about your risk for conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cognitive decline. All of these may have one thing in common: your blood sugar.
Blood Sugar and Chronic Disease
Blood sugar is the concentration of sugar — specifically glucose — found in your blood. When you eat a meal, your blood sugar levels rise, and your body releases the hormone insulin in response. Insulin helps move that sugar from the blood into the cells, where it can be used for energy.
Blood sugar in older people plays a powerful role in not only the risk of prediabetes and diabetes but also cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney and liver disease, cancer, dementia, and even the aging process itself. Why is this?
Poorly regulated glucose or blood sugar levels can have far-reaching consequences. For example, chronically elevated glucose levels, as well as dramatic swings in your glucose, may cause cellular stress and damage throughout the body.
Healthy Glucose at Age Fifty and Beyond
So, what can you do to keep your glucose levels balanced as you age? Here are three tips you can put into action right away.
Meet Your Protein Needs
Protein is an especially important nutrient for your body as you age. Not only does it help keep your immune system strong, but adequate protein is necessary for bone health, cognitive health, a healthy weight, and keeping blood sugar balanced.
As we age, our protein needs may increase. Adults over the age of 65 should be consuming 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, whether they are sedentary or active. Eating protein first at your meal can also support balanced glucose.
Protein-rich foods include lean meats, seafood, eggs, dairy, soy, and beans/legumes. If you aren’t sure how to best meet your protein needs, consider working with a personal dietitian.
Watch Your Added Sugar
The American Heart Association advises no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) of added sugar for women and no more than 150 calories per day (about nine teaspoons or 36 grams) for men.
Here are some easy ways to cut down on added sugar and sugar in general:
- Limit sweetened beverages.
- Opt for whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
- Opt for plain, unsweetened milk, yogurts, and foods like oatmeal.
- Choose dressings or sauces lower in sugar, or order them on the side so you can reduce portions.
Engaging in appropriate amounts of physical activity supports your insulin sensitivity and glucose balance.
Resistance exercises are great for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. Research shows these types of workouts are particularly helpful for improving insulin sensitivity.
After you eat—get moving! Even if it’s for just ten to fifteen minutes, this can help your body process glucose from your foods and keep blood sugar levels stable.
About the author:
Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer at Nutrisense, with a master’s degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.