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Charlyn Fargo Ware: It’s Never Too Late for Healthy Lifestyle Changes | Your Health

Here’s proof it’s never too late to start making some healthy lifestyle changes. They can make a difference later in life.

New research finds that a diet of vegetables and other healthy foods, combined with a routine of regular physical activity, is key to middle-aged adults achieving optimal cardiovascular health later in life. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study analyzed data from 2,379 adult participants of the Framingham Heart Study, which began more than 70 years ago in Framingham, Massachusetts. Adults who met two recommendations during midlife had lower odds of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of disorders that include excess fat around the waist, insulin resistance and high blood pressure) and developing serious health conditions in their senior years. Those conditions included heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found 28 percent met recommendations of both physical activity and dietary guidelines. Another 47 percent met recommendations in at least one of the two areas.

The physical activity guidelines were based on the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans — 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. The dietary guidelines were based on the recommendations in the Agriculture Department’s MyPlate: half your plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter lean protein, a quarter whole grains, and low-fat dairy on the side.

Even achieving one of the guidelines in midlife made a difference. Participants who followed the physical activity recommendations had 51 percent lower odds of metabolic syndrome. Participants who adhered just to the dietary guidelines had 33 percent lower odds. Participants who followed both guidelines had 65 percent lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome.

If you knew you could prevent diabetes, stroke or heart disease later in life just by exercising daily and eating healthier, would you do it? If your answer is yes, I’m confident you’ll be glad you started making those changes as soon as possible.

It’s never too late.


Q: Does how you cook vegetables matter nutritionally?

A: Some nutrients are lost in any cooking method because some vitamins are not very stable. However, vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. While cooking carrots may reduce a little of the vitamin C, cooking increases the availability of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.

Steaming, blanching or microwaving preserves nutrients best, since it avoids using lots of water that can leach some vitamins.

And remember fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are better absorbed if vegetables are prepared or eaten with a healthy fat. In a salad, add a light dressing or avocado slices or nuts to help improve absorption.

The important thing is to include lots of vegetables — both raw and cooked — in your daily diet.

Fish and Vegetable Foil Packets

I recently did a food demo on Fish and Vegetable Foil Packets. They’re an easy way to add fish to your weekly diet, and they’re virtually foolproof. Try this for a quick weeknight dinner. I adapted the recipe from


» 4 aluminum foil squares

» 1 cup zucchini (green or yellow), sliced

» 1 cup corn kernels or cubed potatoes

» 4 (5-ounce) cod or tilapia fillets

» Salt and pepper to taste

» 1 clove garlic

» 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin

» 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

» ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

» ½ teaspoon paprika


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place aluminum foil squares on a flat surface. In a small bowl, mix all other ingredients together. Split vegetable mixture between 4 squares, placing mixture in the center of the foil square. Place fish fillet on top.

Fold foil over mixture, crimp edges to seal tightly and place completed 4 packets on baking sheet. Bake in 400-degree oven until vegetables are tender and fish flakes easily with a fork, about 20 minutes.


Servings: 4

Per serving: 175 calories; 27.6 grams protein; 13.1 grams carbohydrates; 1.2 grams fat; 51.9 milligrams cholesterol; 151.9 grams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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