Disclosure: Abbott has partnered with influencers like me for its Ensure Program. As part of this Program, I received compensation for my time—but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
The average caregiver is, like me, a woman who is married, in her late 40s, with a living parent or parents age 65 or older, and at least one dependent child. And we are at risk. According to the National Center on Caregiving, more than one-third of caregivers provide care to others while suffering from poor health themselves. That’s because caregiving can strain our emotional, mental, and physical health problems.
We know we should take care of ourselves. Caring for an aging and ailing parent reminds us of our own mortality, and that we are not getting any younger, and we have but one precious body and we should take care of it. But how?
When I was in the thick of my caregiving crisis, I lived on a diet of Twizzlers and Diet Coke. I slept an average of four hours a night. And I never exercised. While I felt justified in my choices (I had no time to live a healthier life!), I knew that when the crisis ended I wanted to have a life to return to. And more than that, I wanted to spend the second half of my life thriving, not just surviving. Sure, by the time my caregiving crisis was over, I’d be hitting 50, but why couldn’t 50 be the new strong?
And so little by little, I’ve started to take my health back. I’ve swapped out Twizzlers for real food. I aim to sleep 8 hours or more at least a few nights a week. And I started walking for the mental and physical benefits. It’s progress, but it’s not enough.
As we age, we naturally lose muscle. In fact starting at age 40, we can lose up to 8 percent of our muscle mass each decade. That muscle loss can increase even more in adults who are sick or overstressed from things like caregiving. That means, staying healthy, despite our challenges, is even more important.
The post-40 muscle loss was news to me, but apparently not everyone else. AARP and Abbott recently surveyed 1,480 Americans age 50 and older about how they view diet and health issues as they age, including muscle health. When it came to the health of their muscles, nearly three quarters knew that adults naturally lose muscle with age, and 28 percent said they had already noticed muscle loss. Now, I knew adding protein to my diet at this stage of my life was important, but, I was not as informed as the 17 percent of the survey respondents who knew that 53 grams of protein is the recommended daily amount we need.
That’s why I am grateful to Abbott for inviting me to participate in this program. It was themed, “Mind Your Muscles,” but for me it was more like, “Find Your Muscles.” We were treated to an aerial yoga class, Ensure smoothies that tasted like Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, and some important lessons in aging; We tried on a sarco suit which simulates what it feels like to lose muscle mass. Now I know why my 89 year old father moves so slow. I have added yoga into my daily routine as a result, and I am replacing comfort carbs with power protein.
Ensure Enlive is a new nutrition drink that helps you get the key nutrients your body needs to help you live the healthiest life possible. Not only does it contain a high amount of protein (20 grams), it comes in a convenient bottle, so you can drink it on the go. Just remove your Twizzlers from your purse, and replace them with a bottle of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry Ensure Enlive.
There’s good news for caregivers like me who have suffered a health setback as a result of our responsibilities. Science shows that with the help of nutrition and regular exercise, muscle mass can be maintained and rebuilt. Strong can be the new 50. And I still have some time to prove it. Stay tuned over the next three months as I find and mind my muscles. I have committed to fitting in exercise regardless of my busy schedule. Do you think I can do it? I’ll keep you posted.
Abbott partnered with influencers such as me for its Ensure Program. As part of this Program, I received compensation for my time. Abbott/Ensure believes that consumers and influencers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Abbott/Ensure policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.
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