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Don’t abandon good eating habits now

Created date

April 26th, 2011

Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on

We all know that balanced nutrition is important. Having a healthful diet throughout your life can reduce your risk of many diseases. But a new study shows that improving your nutrition later in life even if your dietary habits weren t perfect as a younger adult may help you live longer and maintain a high level of daily functioning. Over 2,500 adults ages 70 - 79 were followed for a ten-year period by University of Maryland researchers. Results showed that those who ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products added more healthy years to their lives than those who had less healthy diets.

Benefits of a healthy diet

Many people abandon healthy eating habits because they think it no longer matters. But a good diet doesn t stop working in your favor as you age. According to the National Institute on Aging, improving your diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers. There are many factors that contribute to these benefits. For instance, studies in recent years have shown a strong association between the consumption of whole grains and reduced inflammation throughout your body. Reducing inflammation may decrease the negative effects of some medical conditions like cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, eating well can be associated with negative side effects for some. For instance, increasing your whole grains, fruits, and vegetables may cause digestive disturbances like gas or bloating. You can mitigate some of these risks by making changes gradually and skipping an item which is particularly troublesome. Eating well may provide other benefits, including more energy during the day and better sleep at night. Some people are even able to decrease the amount of medication they take after changing what they eat. As always, before you make any major dietary changes, please talk to your doctor, especially if you are already on a special regimen. In good health, Dr. Narrett