Questions from the readers:
Q. I’m 70 and I run/walk the occasional 10K (6.2 miles) and bike metric rides century (100K or 62 miles). But when I went to a new orthopedic doctor to ask about pain in my thumb, he looked at my chart and said, “Well you know, you are getting older, and ...” so I told him to cut out the condescension and treat me the same as a 40-year-old athlete. How do we stop this all-too-common medical ageism? I hope you’ll send me the answer as I’m just visiting Beachwood. Carolyn D., Denver, CO
A. Ageism in medicine is a problem. And calling it out is one way to help change that. When you’re your own best patient advocate, you also help the next patient that comes through your doctor’s door. But we want practicing physicians to look beyond your chart, after they’ve reviewed it carefully, and focus on your “real age.”
According to the Social Security Administration, a woman turning 65 today can expect to live on average to age 86.5. A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84. The average life expectancy for a woman didn’t surpass 65 until 1944 and for a man 1949.
Today, about one out of every three 65-year-olds in North America will live past age 90 and about one out of seven will live past age 95. That means most people will spend more time in elderhood than childhood. And we estimate those over 65 are now more productive and generating more tax revenue than those under age 30 in the United States. While the Congressional Budget Office still considers all programs for those over 65 a cost and reduces benefits for helping people live longer healthily, they seem to not be up-to-date with current data.
That said, healthy aging does deserve some special consideration. Even when you are active and make sure to eat right and get enough sleep, bones can get brittle, while skin and muscle can lose some suppleness, and aches and pains can become recalcitrant. You need to make sure you continue to be physically active, manage stress and you’re eating enough protein (you need a bit extra from veggies and lean meat/fish), and have eight to 10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Also, get regular blood work-ups to make sure your vitamin levels are where they should be.
Q. I live alone and prefer to buy organic fruits and vegetables, but end up throwing away a lot of food because by the time I get to it, it’s spoiled. Is frozen a better alternative? James D., Cleveland Heights
A. Frozen organic fruits and vegetables are a great idea and there’s almost no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry analyzed four vitamins (ascorbic acid-vitamin C, riboflavin, tocopherol-vitamin E, and carotene-precursor to vitamin A) in blueberries, broccoli, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, spinach and strawberries and found that the frozen varieties were comparable to and sometimes higher in, vitamin content than their fresh counterparts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says frozen green beans are almost always higher in nutritional content than fresh store-bought as the fresh lose a lot of nutrients as they travel to you.
The USDA also points out frozen fruits are commercially picked at their peak of ripeness and then frozen in a nitrogen atmosphere which helps preserve nutrients. Freezing also allows you to get berries and other organic fruits out of season. Even fish that’s frozen right after being caught will have its nutrients sealed in. Scottish salmon, for example, will be quite fresh on your plate. Just make sure that your frozen foods don’t contain added salt or sugar in a sauce and haven’t been thawed and re-frozen.
Frozen could be a big win for you in terms of nutrition and cost-savings. You can be eating fresh green beans next Friday that you bought last Sunday. Just make sure you thaw them slowly and don’t overheat them. And always remove them from plastic packaging if you are zapping ’em in the microwave.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.