Nifty Fifties Health Commandments

Posted on: 02 June 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Dr Chris Fenn provides top tips to combat some common over fifties heath issues.


Now life begins at 50, according to a new survey which reveals that over fifties have more time and feel more carefree than ever before.  So there has never been a better time to take charge of your physical and mental wellbeing. 

While some health problems are more common as we age, there is plenty you can do to keep your body and mind in tip top condition.  Leading nutritionist, Dr Chris Fenn provides preventative diet and exercise advice as well as tips to help make health issues easier to manage:

Building Bones

During our lives the body is subjected to various different stresses, so a degree of wear and tear as we age - particularly in the joints and bones - is extremely common.

Peak bone mass is reached around age 25, but as we age, our bones gradually become weaker and we are at risk of developing Osteoporosis – a condition characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue.  This makes the bones extremely fragile and at risk of fracture.

Top tips to reduce your risk:

Dr Chris Fenn comments: "Diet can play a key role in helping to prevent Osteoporosis.  Most of us have heard of the importance of Calcium to help maintain bone health, and it is true that a nutritionally balanced diet full of this essential nutrient can help protect your bones.  But it is also important to boost intake of Vitamin D and the mineral zinc as these are needed to absorb the calcium you consume."

Other tips include:

  • Avoid fizzy drinks, especially colas.  They contain phosphorous which causes calcium to be taken out of your bones, leading to a regular loss of this important nutrient
  • Caffeine, alcohol, sugar and stress should also be avoided as they overstimulate adrenal glands.  This ultimately has a long term effect on bone health
  • Coffee also produces an acidic reaction which reduces the body’s stores of calcium
  • Take regular exercise such as walking which can help to strengthen bones
  • Stop smoking and reduce excessive alcohol consumption which can reduce bone density 

Get More Info: Groups such as the National Osteoporosis Society ( / 0845 450 0230) or the International Osteoporosis Foundation ( can offer additional advice and support

Brain Basics

A sharp mind, mental focus and memory are just as important as physical fitness, and ensure a great quality of life.  However, as we age our brain not only shrinks in size but its cells and tissues can become damaged.

Top tips to boost your brain power:

Research increasingly points towards the important role than nutrition can play in maintaining youthful alertness.  In particular, our brains comprise approximately 60% fat, and are therefore dependent on a healthy supply of the ‘good’ fats from our diet.  Omega-3 fatty acids provide the building blocks for cells of the brain and can help transmit messages between nerves, and as such they have been linked to slowing age-related cognitive decline.

Dr Chris Fenn comments: “Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced in the body, which means that they must be obtained from Omega-rich food, such as oily fish.  Eating the recommended two portions a week can sometimes be tricky so taking a high quality supplement is a convenient and easy way to boost intake.”

Other tips include:

  • Boost your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids with Efalex Active 50+ - the first fish oil supplement developed specifically for the over 50’s.  Available from Boots and Holland & Barrett priced £9.49 for 30 capsules, it contains ingredients known for their beneficial role in maintaining healthy brain function and performance. For further information visit or call 0870 6060128
  • Regularly train your brain with puzzles such as crossword and suduku to help keep your mind active and alert
  • Practice memory boosting techniques – turn complication facts and figures into pictures

For more information on improving memory and maintaining brain function you can request a free ‘Guide to Boosting Brain Power’ by calling 01372 379828 or emailing

A Weighty Issue

Being overweight and over 50 can exaggerate conditions such as joint problems, disrupted sleep patterns, poor exercise, depression and digestive problems.  Experts believe that change in hormones at this time can affect fat deposition, and a slower metabolism means that we are more likely to put on weight even though we are eating the same diet as we always have.

Dr Chris Fenn comments: "While a balanced diet full of protein, vitamins and minerals is still important, it is essential to try and keep to your ideal weigh.  Obesity is one of the key causes of Type 2 diabetes, of which people over the age of 40 are at increased risk".

Manage the symptoms

  • A normal balanced diet is key – low in saturated fat, sugar and salt and high in fibre, fruit and vegetables
  • Regular physical exercise can increase the body’s response to insulin
  • Moderate alcohol consumption and stopping smoking are both advised
  • Medicines can be prescribed if lifestyle changes don’t reduce your glucose levels, or insulin injections can also be prescribed if necessary 

Taking Charge Of The Change

The menopause can be a difficult and uncomfortable time for many women. And all women’s experiences are unique and personal to them.  As your supply of eggs diminishes, your oestrogen hormone levels fluctuate and decline.             

Watch for the signs:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Memory loss
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia and tiredness
  • Mood swings

Manage the symptoms:

In recent years HRT has been used to combat symptoms, however there are also many natural approaches:

  • Get relief from night sweats by cooling yourself with tepid water
  • Limit sugary, salty and spicy foods and drink plenty of water
  • Keep a symptom diary

For more information about treating the symptoms of the menopause, request a free leaflet: call 01372 379828 or email  

Healthy Heart, Healthy You

Unfortunately modern diet and lifestyles are contributing to an increase in cardiovascular diseases which affect the heart or blood vessels.  With heart disease, the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart is restricted, particularly during exertion when there are more demands on the heart muscle***

Dr Chris Fenn advises: "Symptoms of heart disease include a gripping pain in the chest and along the arms – in women this can feel like severe indigestion.  See your GP if you suffer with this and have a history of heart disease in the family – your GP will be able to examine you with simple tests to detect whether there is a problem."

Manage the symptoms:

  • Take up walking running and swimming which can all strengthen the heart
  • Reduce stress by learning to take time to just relax
  • Ensure you are a healthy weight
  • Restrict fat intakes, particularly saturated fat (animal fats) and trans fats (found in processed foods such as ready meals).  However ‘good’ fats such as Omega-3 and 6 are actually linked to help improve cardiovascular health
  • Stop smoking  to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disease

About Dr Chris Fenn

Chris Fenn is one of the UK's leading nutritionists and an international speaker. She advises top businessmen and women, athletes, and anyone with a dream on how to achieve peak performance through nutrition.

Chris is a regular contributor to BBC radio and TV programmes. She is also the presenter and consultant for "The Good Foods Guide" a series of programmes broadcast repeatedly on the BBC World Service. Chris designed the food for the "castaways" on the popular BBC television survival programme "The Heat is On".

Chris is a member of the Guild of Health Writers. Chris has a monthly column in "Cycling Plus". Her feature articles have been published in outdoor magazines such as "Trail" and TGO (the great outdoors), as well as the website.

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