Health Tips From A Formerly Slobby Senior

Until my mid-20s, I exercised daily and spent summers on active duty as a Naval Reserve athletic instructor. I weighed 145 pounds then, but when I retired at age 65, I’d ballooned up to 195.

Not bad on a six-foot-three frame, but I’m not quite five-eight. Observing the blubber and shortness of breath, my family doctor told me I was headed for big-time cardiovascular and other medical problems. He then launched me on a heart-healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Do you have a similar problem? If your mirror reflects much too much of you, here’s some sound advice:

No Smoking: Although I was never a smoker, many dearly departed college, Navy and career associates would be still around today planning their 90th birthdays, too, if they had quit the fatal habit. No matter the lifestyle, that can be one of the most important decisions to make if you yearn to survive to 65 and beyond in good health.

Heart-Healthy Exercise: When I retired, it had been more than 20 years since I’d done any regular physical exercise. My days were mostly eight hours sitting in an office and another four flopped in front of a TV.

I started getting healthy again with a daily 30-minute early morning hike. Initially, it was more of a huff-and-puff stroll, but after several weeks, I’d quicken my stride, jog 20 paces, then walk 20. Later, it was mostly jogging.

I also swam daily at a local pool. At first, all I could do were two 50-yard laps, then flop poolside like a beached whale. Then, after several months, I was completing ten and gradually extended to 30 daily laps.

Heart-Healthy Diet Plan: In addition to daily exercise, I had to drastically change my eating habits from high calorie junk to sensible foods. My doctor first had me list an honest account of a typical day’s intake, and it topped 3,000 calories.

Normal for age 65 to maintain weight is 2,000. To lose, I had to cut back to 1,500 daily. As with exercise, I eased into my diet gradually. I cut back on salty, fatty meats, desserts, and concentrated on lean meat, fish, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Say Bye Bye To Booze And Junk Foods: Instead of sugar-loaded candy, cakes, pies and ice cream, I munched oranges, drank fruit juices and drank lots of water. The toughest routine change was to cut out beer and other alcohol. Also, instead of three daily meals of 1,000 calories each, my doctor changed it to four light ones of 400 calories each, so there was no urge for between-meal snacks.

See Your Doctor: I was monitored every couple of weeks. Blood pressure checked, weighed and heartbeat measured. After the first month, I’d lost ten pounds. At that rate, I thought I’d take off the other 40 in four more months. However, because of occasional cheating on the diet, it took me a year to get from 195 to 145.

That was 25 years ago. At almost 90, I still weigh in at 145 pounds, and with regular diet and exercise, feel much better than I did during my 195 pound years. Looking back, I can say it was very well worth the effort.

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