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Healthy aging

09/18/03 12:00AM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz
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(Host) Commentator Mary Barrosse-Schwartz says that aging well may be a matter of doing lots of little things right.


(Barosse-Schwartz) The baby boomers are hitting middle age. Those of us in the post-war population bulge are now in our forties and fifties, and starting to feel the effects of real aging.

We're stiff when we get out of bed. We either hold the newspapers at arms length or we peer down our noses through reading glasses. It's harder to lose weight, harder to sleep, harder to hear, and many of us share the challenge of taking care of elderly parents.

To hear Vermont family doctors tell it, boomers want to know what to expect as they age. They ask, "What are the signs of normal and usual aging? How can I beat the odds and age successfully?" Those who have ignored health recommendations for their first 40 years, wonder if there's anything they can do now to stave off serious health consequences in their sixties, seventies and eighties.

In the battle to age successfully, research is showing that several simple things matter very much. We all know the big things: exercise and eat well, but here is a list of the small things.

One multivitamin a day has huge positive implications in aging well. Have breakfast everyday. Fruit and high fiber foods, like whole grain bread and cereals, help to improve mental and physical performance and contribute important nutrition to your diet.

Brush your teeth and floss everyday. Studies show that people who have severe gum disease are more likely to have a stroke. Researchers hypothesize that as the natural barrier between the tooth and the gum erodes, bacteria from the infection enter the blood stream, damaging the arteries. Past research has shown a similar association between gum disease and heart disease, but the association with stroke seems to be even more pronounced.

Use seat belts and drive the speed limit. Use sunscreen and now with West Nile virus, bug spray.

Some of the simple things you can do to age successfully are downright pleasant. The polyphenols in three ounces of dark chocolate or a glass of red wine have been shown to help lower blood pressure. And research has identified a substance, called saponin, in red wine which is now theorized to have as much benefit as the polyphenols. Saponin binds with cholesterol to keep it from being absorbed in the blood stream. It may also help with inflammation, which may reduce the chances of heart disease and cancer. This research was conducted by Andrew Waterhouse, Professor of wine chemistry, University of California, Davis.

And finally, enjoy friends by getting together at least three times a month. The benefit of staying involved in relationships helps with stress, and mental fitness.

In East Dorset, this is Mary Barrosse Schwartz.

Mary Barrosse Schwartz is a mother, a freelance writer and an artist.
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