(MCT) -- "I thought growing old would take longer," a friend of mine recently quipped.
I laughed. But boy, did I realize her meaning as I chased my two-year old granddaughter around recently.
Growing older isn't for sissies. Case in point: Starting as early as age 45, muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent a year, according to researchers at Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. This leads to a gradual loss of strength - a condition called "sarcopenia." And much of this condition is tied to inadequate protein in the diet and inadequate exercise in the lifestyle, say these experts.
Some research suggests that the current recommendation for protein intake (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults) may not be quite enough to prevent loss of muscle mass as we age. When protein is not sufficient, the body begins to break down its own tissue to supply for vital needs. The result is a loss of muscle tone and strength, say nutrition experts.
Other studies have found that aging bodies are better able to retain muscle strength when we eat approximately 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. (For comparison: 3 ounces of fish, chicken or meat contains about 21 grams of protein; beans and legumes, approximately 15 grams per cup; milk or soy beverages, 8 grams per cup; 1 egg, 7 grams; vegetables, 2 to 3 grams per cup.)
Exercise (especially resistance or strength training) is the other side of the equation to prevent frailty as age, say Tufts researchers. Keep pumping those muscles 30 minutes to an hour a day, they suggest.
And remember, another friend reminded me, "Until the age of 25, you have the face that your mother gave you. From 25 to 50, you have the face that you have created. From 50 onward, you have the face that you deserve!"
And one more reminder for us young at heart: August 28 was Senior Day at the Monterey County Fair. My friend, Nick Nicholson from the Carmel Host Lions Club, and his group were there to provide free vision, hearing and diabetes screenings.
By the way, this is the same Nick "the slave driver" who cracked the whip on us volunteers in his food tent for many years of Pebble Beach golf tournaments.
To his credit, Nick's dedication helped earn money for the Carmel, Calif., Youth Center. And as I recall, Nick, each time your name (Nick) appears in the media, you (Nick) are required to put a certain amount of money into the kitty at your next Lion's Club meeting.
Thanks for helping make growing old take a little longer.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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