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Make every age count

Updated on December 1, 2007

Know what to eat and how to stay fit while your body goes through its chronological aging

THE ONE thing that cannot be stopped by wishful thinking is aging, but eating right and keeping fit can make you feel and look young, even while your body goes through its chronological aging. As women go through different life stages, it is important to be aware of the body's changing needs. Staying active and tailoring food intake to keep up with the changes can help minimise unwanted weight gain and energy loss, and can possibly keep chronic diseases in check.

Early 20s:

"Who me? I am only in my early 20s, why should I worry?"

It is important to realise that the basis for good health is laid in your teens and your early 20s. Lower your chances of getting osteoporosis (thin and brittle bones) by consuming more calcium now. Keep your bones strong by eating two to three servings of foods that contain calcium each day. The best choices for calcium are milk, non-fat or low fat milk if you are worried about your weight, curd (yogurt), and cheese. You require at least 1 large glass (250 ml) of milk, twice a day. If you do not like milk, disguise it in your favourite flavour, take it with oatmeal porridge or cereal or take it in forms such as paneer (not fried!).

Make exercise a normal part of your life — this will make it a life-long good habit and will be the basis for how you look much later in life.

Late 20s:

"I'm busy with my career." "I'm married and have no time for myself."

One of the most important things you can do at this stage is to make sure you are getting the recommended daily 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid, especially if you are planning a pregnancy. Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that protects fetuses from serious birth defects. Good sources of folate include green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and vitamin supplements.

The first few kilos of insidious weight gain will be starting now. Pregnancy and childbirth will pile on unwanted kilos. Be aware of how much you weigh. You will need more effort to maintain your weight.

Your skin needs extra care. Be sure to use a moisturiser on your face everyday — this will ensure that your skin will remain smooth and supple till into your 50s.

The 30s:

"My children are growing up, I have to spend all my time with them." "My husband is building his career, I have to help him." "I have a high pressure job, I have no time for myself."

A woman's metabolism slows down between 2 and 8 percent every decade, which means a 35-year-old woman needs 100 fewer calories a day than she did 10 years ago. To keep your weight steady, you will need to exercise more and eat less. So, you may need to re-examine your diet and cut back on empty calories and eat more nutritious foods.

The 40s and beyond:

"Oh, please, I really don't care." "I didn't do anything all these years, it is too late now."

As women age, muscle mass slowly begins to deteriorate and is replaced with fat. The best way to prevent age-related muscle loss is to make weight-bearing exercise a priority. Sounds intimidating? Walking is the best weight bearing exercise and ensures bone strength and postpones osteoporosis.

Calcium again becomes an important part of your health. Talk to your doctor who will recommend how much calcium you require.

Regardless of your age, taking a little time now to change your eating and exercise habits can help improve the quality of your life now and in the future, and lead you down the path of good health.

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