Lifestyle Tips for Healthy Aging

| 1 min read

Chuck Gaidica with Vince McKinnon and Susan Okonkowski



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Susan Okonkowski, a health care manager and registered dietician as well as Vince McKinnon, a manager and onsite wellness coordinator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss how to age healthfully and gracefully.
“Your caloric level over time, as you age, may decrease just a little bit… So, the quality of what you’re eating does need to start to come into play. Less calcium in the diet means it’s going to affect your bone density. Less vitamin D? Now all of a sudden that’s affecting your bone mass too. There are a lot of different factors… You got to start thinking about what you’re putting in your mouth when it comes to the nutrients with aging.” – Susan Okonkowski
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • How the body changes over time
  • Why you should monitor your nutrient intake
  • The dangers of restrictive diets
  • The benefits of strength training
  • The long-term effects of stretching and recovery
  • The importance of adequate sleep
  • The power of genetics

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, Episode 33. Coming up, we discuss how you can adjust your nutrition and fitness as you age.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small, healthy habits, no matter the age. And we can start implementing all of these great ideas today. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we sit down with a certified health expert or two from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we’ll take a dive into topics covering nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more. In this episode, we’re talking all about diet, exercise, lifestyle tips for healthy aging. And with me today from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a health manager, registered dietitian, Susan Okonkowski, she’s here. Two kids at home keeping her busy. That’s part of her workout, right.
Susan Okonkowsk: It is.
Chuck Gaidica: Isn’t it?
Susan Okonkowsk: Every day.
Chuck Gaidica: Because the baby is how old now?
Susan Okonkowsk: 10 and a half months.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh my gosh. So you’re on the move and baby’s not walking yet. So sooner than later, 10 miles a day. Susan holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan, a bachelor’s in dietetics from University of Wisconsin. She’s on the Adjunct Faculty over at Washtenaw Community College. And so we’re just so glad that she’s back with us and the kids and her husband have let her come to be with us today. Vince is a manager, Vince McKinnon, at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan well-being department. He’s been with the Blues for six and a half years. He leads a staff of 11 wellbeing coordinators and has been in this business of health and wellness for 18 years. Good to see you again.
Vince McKinnon: Good to see you too, Chuck.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, so-
Vince McKinnon: Happy to be back.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, when we talk about this idea of aging, I know it’s a podcast but we have cameras out, so you don’t have to look at me every time you talk about an old guy. Okay? But I mean this, there are unique challenges in this whole idea of what we eat, what we do, what we can, our body allows us to do. Right? As we age. Where do we want to get started in this? I mean, are you feeling any of these things now even at your young tender years of what? 25, 26?
Vince McKinnon: yeah, I think I am. Susan and I were talking about this. I’m going to be 38 in August, so it’s not that I think I’m old, but I’m getting old. And we’re starting to be at that age where you start to feel things. You could be getting bone spurs, you could get aches and pains and things of that nature. And Susan and I talked about if you want to be successful, you have to really continue to adapt what you do. If you can’t squat all the way down to the ground when you’re working out, maybe you need to do a box squat or something like that. So you have to begin to adapt your exercises and things that you do for your lifestyle to continue to be successful.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. I’m doing that now. I’m taking a class and I, because of a left knee issue, I can’t really do squats. That just don’t … my knee is kind of moving around so I’m having to adjust. But what’s cool is I’ve got trainers in this class that are telling me, you know, “That’s all right, just do whatever you can. Just kind of jog in place, whatever you can do.”
Susan Okonkowsk: I think that’s one of the big things too that we had talked about, like recognizing that we are getting older and that it’s okay. It’s okay to age, but as we age we do have to adapt. And along with that adaptation comes, you know, a busier life, right? You typically like you’re busy with work, you’re busy with your family, like kids may start to enter the picture for all of us. And you know, it’s like you may have worked out a lot before or you were really regimented about every little thing that you ate. Where now as it could even be a time factor. So we look at, you know, your body’s changing, your time is changing. So it’s all about adaptation.
Chuck Gaidica: But you know, I just read a great study, most of us, and it’s not just baby boomers, I’m one of them. Most of us think we’re 15 to 20 years younger than we are, in our heads.
Vince McKinnon: It’s good.
Chuck Gaidica: Now as you get older, I think that’s a really good positive thing. But as you get older, you better understand that maybe those ligaments and your muscles and your bones and whatever it is, it’s not quite the same as it used to be.
Vince McKinnon: No. And the big thing I think people lose perspective. When you’re younger, you know when you’re a teenager, you’re 16, 18 years old and you’re in high school, you’re not in a office all day. You’re not in a car driving to work. So our lifestyles as we age, we’re more sedentary, so you need to do a lot more warm up and a lot more mobility when you actually go to exercise. So if you’re lifting weights or you’re going to play basketball, if you’re going golfing, I think you have to have a mobility routine where you stretch and make sure that you get everything firing the way that it should before you engage in the activity. Just for the simple fact that now that you’re a little bit older, you are more sedentary. You’re at the desk, you’re in your car. I mean certain people may have jobs where they move around and do things like that. If they’re checking meters or something that’s a physical job. But for the most part, a lot of us are very tight and we’re in cubicles all day, so we need to stretch.
Chuck Gaidica: So that’s kind of part of a personal assessment of your body. But when it comes to assessing your nutritional needs, what’s changing as we get older? Should we be eating more protein? Because typically muscle mass deteriorates. I think so many of us are confused, like what’s the newer thing to do as we get older?
Susan Okonkowsk: Right. And actually there is a lot of change that happens, especially with nutrition. When you start to reach that age around 45, 50. So when you think about nutrients that will need change, one of the biggest ones is calcium. Calcium, vitamin D. You think about folic acid and more protein in the diet.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: And although your caloric level over time, as you age may decrease just a little bit, your nutrient intake should increase. So the quality of what you’re eating does need to start to come into play. Because less calcium in the diet means that it’s going to affect your bone density. Less vitamin D, Now all of a sudden that’s affecting your bone mass too. So there are a lot of different factors that’s like you got to really start thinking about what you’re putting in your mouth when it comes to the nutrients with aging.
Chuck Gaidica: And bone density is not just a lady’s issue, right? I mean, we tend to think … Because my wife will say, “Oh, I’m going to get bone density tested,” Or something. And I’m like well, my doctor’s never said that ever to me as a guy. But I know that when I got measured the last time for my physical and I’m being 5’10” and they’re like, “Well, you’re 5’9.75″.” I’m like, “What? What do you mean it’s going down? That doesn’t make any sense. What do you mean?” So let’s talk about this idea of attacking nutrition. You’re talking about vitamin D, calcium. You don’t mean to take a handful of supplements, you mean eat good stuff?
Susan Okonkowsk: Yes. Foods first. Food always should come first.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: When it comes to vitamin D, calcium. I mean, yes, you can take supplements if there are certain foods like, oh, if you’re a vegetarian. You know, you might have a really difficult time getting some of those nutrients in, but not necessarily. I mean, calcium is really rich in leafy greens and there’s very few people out there that can’t eat broccoli, spinach, Kale. So …
Chuck Gaidica: And would think Broccoli would be filled with calcium and all the other nutrients. You’d just think, “Well, it’s a green thing. It’s just water.”
Susan Okonkowsk: Right, right.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: It is. Or, “I have to drink milk or some form of milk to get calcium.” Not necessarily. I mean yes, dairy products are very rich in calcium. But there’s a lot of other foods that you can also supplement in your diet. And I say supplement meaning you’re not taking in, you know, those dairy products, but there are other foods rather than, “Oh, I’m going to go and just find a supplement and pop that in.”
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right. So Vince, you have inspired me from one of our previous podcasts.
Vince McKinnon: Excellent.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve told you this, right?
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: To go out and work out a little different way. And you’re working out, even though you’ve had an injury, you’re recovering from that. What should we be thinking about in terms of adapting our workouts as we get older? Especially as we’re now trying to fight this idea of diet, maybe metabolism is decreasing just because it’s a natural thing. Maybe in men there are hormonal changes. Women are the same, right?
Vince McKinnon: Right, lower Testosterone.
Chuck Gaidica: What should we be doing that’s a little different? More weights, less weights, more aerobics, you know? What do you think?
Vince McKinnon: I don’t think there’s anything we should or shouldn’t be doing, but I want to go back to the fact that as you age and you get older, I think the stretching and the warm up is really important. If I’m doing lower body, I take about 10 to 15 minutes to make sure I warm up my quads and my glutes and my hamstrings and stretch them out. If I’m doing upper body, I’m going to stretch out my upper body. I do about eight to 10 minutes. And then after I finish working out, I stretch as well. So that’s going to go for, if you’re doing something like basketball or you’re skiing or golfing. If you’re lifting weights, same thing. You’re going to want to stretch.
Vince McKinnon: The one thing that I don’t want people to get trapped into as they age is, “I can’t do something.” I was talking to you and Susan before we got on, there was a 103-year-old that won the 100 yard sprint in the senior Olympics.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I saw that, yeah.
Vince McKinnon: So I don’t like the fact that people think, “Okay, I’m older. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” I urge everyone to lift weights. Go try crossfit, if you want to. You know, start snowboarding if you want to. Don’t trap yourself into thinking that you’re old and you can’t do things.
Vince McKinnon: And we talked about adapting. The adapting thing is knowing your body. So for me, I just went through an injury and I found out what I could and couldn’t do. So I had to figure out it isn’t what I can’t do, what can I do? And focus on those types of things. And you talked about with your knee, you can’t squat all the way down because of the pain. So you know, doing box squats or doing three-quarter squats. Or maybe you take squats out and you do a lunges if that’s possible, or whatever the exercise can be. So I think it’s, what can I do and what am I going to enjoy? You have to enjoy what you’re doing as well.
Chuck Gaidica: And then as we start talking about this idea of lifestyle, so you’re using a stroller because of the baby. I mean there are things we can incorporate into our lifestyles that maybe we used to jog in the old days, but now we can do something a little different. Maybe it’s swimming.
Susan Okonkowsk: Absolutely. Like I remember, you know, I used to run marathons. And you know, since I had the kids it’s just, it’s a time factor. But I still run. And now I take them with me in the double stroller because, and they enjoy it. And I also see that as like, Oh hey, you know, I am aging, I’m getting older but I’m still going to run. I’m just not going to run, you know, 20 miles. I’m going to run five. And it’s also that role modeling too. You know, I think as parents it is important for your kids to see that yeah, you know, you’re not going out and doing all these crazy things, but you’re still exercising. You know, you’re still being healthy. And that adaptation is important I think for them to see too.
Chuck Gaidica: As a mom, you ever track your steps? I don’t mean the steps on purpose that you’re going to run. I mean are you looking at how much are you moving?
Susan Okonkowsk: Oh yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: Couple miles a day. I mean, just-
Chuck Gaidica: Awesome.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Awesome. What about the added benefits, Vince? What about the notion that we’re going to work out and whether it’s because we’re now with people … I read another study, I read all this stuff. Loneliness is increasing across the board demographically. It’s not just older people. Millennials are saying, “I’m lonely.” I’m thinking, really? You’ve got 2,000 Facebook friends. Well there you go. They’re not real friends. But aren’t there added benefits to working out, going to a place and you’ve got your own tribe?
Vince McKinnon: Tremendous. I mean, it’s really going to improve your well-being. Having your family as a support group really helps, but having a social network. I used to belong to a crossfit gym, I don’t any longer. But when you see that team environment where they’re all together, they all hold each other accountable. They’re like, “Hey, are you going to be here this day? I’m going to be there.” Or you think about just going to your local gym or if it, again, if it’s basketball, if it’s flag football, if you have someone to hold you accountable but also enjoy it with you, you’re going to be a lot more successful. I think having a strong partner or partners makes you look a lot more forward to it. I’m sure you’re starting to meet people in your boxing class.
Chuck Gaidica: I am.
Vince McKinnon: And you’re saying to them, “Hey, it’s good to see you here. Are you going to be here Tuesday?”
Chuck Gaidica: Well we’re doing high fives with our gloves and all of a sudden people think I’m an athlete, you know? I just like the idea that I’m part of the gang.
Vince McKinnon: So improving that well-being is going to make you a lot more successful. And I think the loneliness factor really is a mental aspect. And if you have people supporting you, you’re not going to fall into it.
Chuck Gaidica: And you know, you were talking about this idea of … and I guess we would call this in a little different way, peer pressure, which I find using an app on my phone to track food is actually a little bit of pressure. I’m accountable to somebody else. But you know, when you start to see somebody in the family lose weight, working out, changing a habit and it sticks, all of a sudden your spouse or somebody else may say, “What are you doing?” Your buddy will say, “What are you up to that’s so different? What’s making you different? Why are you happier now?” Right?
Susan Okonkowsk: Right. Or you know, you get together with your friends and you’re going out to dinner and you’re like, “Oh, well I’m going to order this salad.” And I had this happened this last weekend where I was with all my girlfriends. They’re like, “Oh, you’re ordering a salad?” Like, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t get a salad too.” And you know, it is that, it’s that social comradery of you know, we’re going to be healthy together. And it’s important.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah. And peer pressure is good. I remember my neighbor across the street, this was probably about two years ago, she lost over 60 pounds and she said it was because of me. Because she would look out her window and see me flipping a tire down the street and pushing sleds. And she said, “If I could do that, then why can’t she go to the gym?” And she’s kept the weight off and everything. And I found it very interesting because I didn’t really talk to her a lot, but she came over and told me that. So I thought that was really interesting.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, you know, both of you are this, you’re evangelists for happy and healthy lifestyles, right? So you know people are peaking in. Because if the counter that to that was, you even worked out and then pulled up with a run from Dunkin Donuts and walked in with two boxes or you know, some Tim Bits.
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: You know?
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: You could make this go the other way.
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: So we talked about this idea of loneliness. But the other thing that to me is striking in America is anxiety levels are through the roof. And how are people able to get past that idea? Depression kind of ties in with anxiety, but if you’re working out, if you’re finding ways to work out, there’s a benefit psychologically, emotionally, mentally, right? That can come from that.
Susan Okonkowsk: There’s a huge release of endorphins you have when you work out, which is going to help your overall health status in many ways, including mental health. And then they’re starting to do a lot of studies about how exercise is actually improving mental health.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And you must find that yourself, right? I mean it’s not just an aesthetic thing where you’re looking in a mirror or something.
Vince McKinnon: Oh, absolutely. No.
Susan Okonkowsk: No.
Chuck Gaidica: I don’t mean that.
Vince McKinnon: When you … you know, I follow people like David Goggins who’s in an extreme athlete, used to be a navy seal and he talks about self confidence. I feel like when people set goals with fitness or if they’re doing a team sports type thing and they meet those goals, they get more and more confident. So you know, think about the people in your life that are very engaged in fitness and their nutrition. They’re probably going to be super confident and they’re probably very successful in other aspects of their life. So I think it just kind of all intertwines together. If you work hard in that aspect of your life, that’s going to come over into your professional career as well.
Chuck Gaidica: And you know, benefits of that can include boosting mood. Maybe you’re sleeping better?
Vince McKinnon: Absolutely.
Susan Okonkowsk: Oh yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean you get zonked out because you worked out and burned off nearly a thousand calories today, awesome.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah, 100%. you know what I find is when I’m heavy into my routine, when I had my injury, I couldn’t sleep as good because I wasn’t as tired because I wasn’t as training as hard. I love being able to hit the pillow at 9:00, 9:30 because I get up at 5:00 in the morning and get my seven to eight hours of sleep. And that’s easy to do if I’m training and hard.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And we’re leaving out the the miles and miles of blood vessels and arteries in our body. Right? So there’s blood pressure issues, high blood pressure. But also this idea of just improving your cardiovascular nature, especially as we age.
Susan Okonkowsk: Oh yeah, definitely. There’s a big factor. I mean with exercise too, there’s so many things that it’s going to do for you; including like the sleep aspect. Because as you get older, your sleep actually, the sleep patterns tend to change. You have a harder time falling asleep at night. You know? And part of that could be, you know, it’s aging, it’s more things in your life that you’re thinking about. So the exercise is going to help you kind of relax at night too and get some more hours of shuteye.
Chuck Gaidica: I have to share with you this idea. So when I started trying to lose some weight and I kind of got a little handle on this, I changed some programs. Some of it was eating and I had no trouble with any of the typical categories. I’m not diabetic, I don’t have high cholesterol. So I decided I would do a blood panel when I started and I did a blood panel six months later.
Vince McKinnon: That’s great.
Chuck Gaidica: My doctor suggested it as well, right? He looked at those results. He said, “This is six months. You should be a poster child for why you should change this.” Because every single category improved. And again, I’m not saying this because I’m so special. I’m just saying I saw with my own eyes, small changes that to me were like, I’m just eating oatmeal. I’m taking the dog for longer walks and more walks. I got a weighted vest, which was your suggestion, right? So I’m trying to mix up my routines. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, this was a six month change. This wasn’t 60 years of change.” So I guess the point I’m trying to make is if I can do it, you can do it. And we can all get started like now.
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Right?
Vince McKinnon: One thing I want to go back to real quick and Susan can expand on it, is this really all starts with nutrition. So when you wake up and what you put in your body as fuel and energy is going to dictate your whole day. So we’re all very busy. You know, Susan and I are the same age right around 38. and if we don’t eat the correct foods, we’re going to drag throughout the day and it’s going to really impact our exercise. It’s going to impact our workday. And I think really being mindful of what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to eat and the planning. Like right now as we speak I know at my house there’s a Crockpot cooking vegetable soup. So I know, you know I’m going to have some veggies for a dinner and I’m already thinking about, “Okay, am I going to get enough veggies today, enough fruit? Did I eat what I need at two in the morning because I’m going to go do a podcast with Chuck, am I going to have enough energy?”
Vince McKinnon: So I think you always have to keep in your mind what you’re putting in your body. Because that’s going to dictate how you feel the whole day. If you’re eating a bunch of processed food, refined carbohydrates and fast food and things like that, you’re really going to get crashed and you’re really going to get dragged down.
Chuck Gaidica: So is there anything that as you’ve aged, either one of you, that you are adapting or increasing? Are you doing anything that’s different? And let’s try to get specific so we get a takeaway. Should I be increasing protein? I know you said it’s individual, but are there tricks of the trade that we should really be thinking about that as we’re getting older, if muscle mass is disappearing by itself, what should we do?
Vince McKinnon: I’ll comment on my personal experience and then I’ll let Susan take it over. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I feel a lot better if I eat more vegetables and fruit. And I mean like actual vegetables and fruit, eating the raw stuff. I can tell on my energy level, I can actually tell in my workouts and muscle mass and things like that and Muscle Mansur retention if I eat more fruits and veggies and lean protein, you know? Eating things like bison and venison and chicken and things of that nature.
Chuck Gaidica: Fish? do you eat a lot of fish?
Vince McKinnon: Yep, yep. I eat fish too. So I can tell the difference. But the biggest thing for me as I got older was adding in raw fruits and vegetables. But Susan can be a little bit more specific exactly on what you need.
Susan Okonkowsk: Well, I think the big thing too is when you look at what needs to be increased, you look at calcium, fiber and water, and then a little bit of protein. And as you start to add in more fruits and vegetables. And I know I have added in way more oatmeal and things of that nature to get more fiber. Because that’s a really important factor. As you age, people start to drink less and then they take in less fiber. And so you know, eating those fruits and vegetables, like you said, adding the oatmeal is going to help with cardiovascular health. It’s going to help with that bone density.
Chuck Gaidica: Digestion.
Susan Okonkowsk: Digestion, everything. So those are some big things that-
Vince McKinnon: And water.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yes.
Vince McKinnon: You know, as I sit here and drink water. I mean drinking a ton of water is a really important thing. Most people don’t get enough water.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: And so when it comes to that protein though, and I ask this specifically because we’ve got so many diets that they can tend to have names where people are going completely nutso. And it’s the bacon and beer diet or it’s … but there’s a lot of protein, right? So I know what some of the downsides are because I’ve seen it just kind of come back on people like a tsunami. They lost 30 pounds like bam, and then all of a sudden 40 is back on. But when you talk about protein, is there an amount that we should be working through in our minds during the day? Or is it really that individual?
Vince McKinnon: I think, well, Susan can give you the exact numbers. I mean obviously if like, let’s take me for example. I’m coming back from an injury. I want to gain weight, so I’m going to put on some fat as I put on muscle. So I’m going to eat protein in excess. And I know that that’s going to be hard on my body because I’m going to eat more than I probably need to. I’m going to eat probably two grams per pound of body weight. I’m just over 200 pounds.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Vince McKinnon: So I’ll probably eat over 200 grams of protein.
Chuck Gaidica: Well you’ve gotta be doing shakes and stuff. How much bison could you-
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: You could eat a whole bison.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know, that’s why we get into supplements, right? So for me, I know I’m going to do it in excess to put weight on to get back where I was. And once I get that I’ll probably level it off. But I know Susan, I think her recommendation is a lot less than that. I think it’s like one gram per pound or something.
Chuck Gaidica: What’s the average?
Susan Okonkowsk: Yeah, I mean typically, you know, if you’re doing like 0.8 to one gram per pound of your body weight, I mean you’re going to get plenty of protein through the day.
Chuck Gaidica: What if you’re overweight? That still applies? So if you should be 170 but your 230, you should still be doing 0.8 of 230 or 0.8 of the weight you want to be?
Susan Okonkowsk: The 0.8 of the weight you want to be.
Chuck Gaidica: I see, okay.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yep. And then you really have to watch though, so you’re not having … And the protein, if you just, all of a sudden you get on these really high protein diets, they are going to impact your renal system. And people necessarily don’t think about that because they’re like, “Oh, like I’m losing all this weight.” But the problem is your body can’t store a ton of excess protein. It can store fat, it can store carbohydrates. But when it comes to that protein, it can’t. So your body has to process all of the excess protein as waste, which eventually over time, like your brain starts to get a little foggy and you don’t feel the greatest. And it’s like your body’s trying to get rid of all that, which is having a negative effect on your system.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah, I can attest that. So sustainability with these diets. I had a family member, I won’t name the diet, but it was high protein, low carb. And they’re like, “I lost all this weight, isn’t it great?” And I sat there and I started talking to them and I asked them what they’re eating. You know they’re eating bacon-
Chuck Gaidica: Slim Jims, yeah.
Vince McKinnon: They’re eating eggs.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, yeah, crazy stuff.
Vince McKinnon: So they’re eating all this stuff. And I said, “Now how do you think that’s going to affect your arteries?” You know, it has to be processed. If you put all that bad saturated fat through your body, it’s going to impact your arteries. And they started thinking. And then the other thing, it’s not sustainable. So one time I cut down to 185 because I wanted to have a six pack for my 35th birthday. I know really vain, but I did it.
Vince McKinnon: And as Susan was talking about, I cut out a ton of carbs because they retain water and things of that nature. And I could tell when I went below 100 grams … to this day, I can tell you the days, I can tell you without looking, if I ate 300 grams of carbs, 200, or less than 100. I was eating less than 100 grams of carbs a day. And I was dumb. I mean, I couldn’t think. I had a hard time talking. So it really impacted my brain. So like Susan’s talking about with some of these newer diets, it’s going to impact your cognitive ability.
Chuck Gaidica: In recent years, I had a buddy, to your point about renal problems, I had a buddy who was on one of the name diets where it’s, you know, high protein, low carb. And his wife called me one night and hands the phone to her husband who’s on the floor in the fetal position saying, you know, “Would you please talk to him?” I said, “You have to go to the hospital.” He thought he was having a heart attack. You know what it was? A kidney stone.
Susan Okonkowsk: Kidney Stone.
Vince McKinnon: Yep.
Chuck Gaidica: And I guess that’s a side effect, right? When you go crazy in that realm. And so I got him and I thought it could be a heart attack from the way he was talking. He didn’t believe so. But we got him and that’s what it turned out to be. But you really have to think about, I guess it’s balance, right?
Susan Okonkowsk: It is. It’s all about balance. Like your body needs everything. It needs carbs, it needs fat, it needs protein. And so, and especially as you age, that nutrient mix becomes even more important. Because you’re eating less overall, typically. So what am I going to eat to make sure that I get enough protein? I get my calcium, I get my B12 I, you know? So you really have to think about that and do some planning.
Chuck Gaidica: Is the idea that as we age, Vince, when you’re talking about workouts, because you were joking off mic a few minutes ago about you know, everybody who’s getting older may see a little more flab under their arm, you know, flapping in the breeze. Right?
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: So is it just, not just what we’re eating, because I know that’s key at the top. But should we be lifting more weights? Should we be doing more bicep curls? Is that really going to help with the notion of what’s happening with skin or is that kind of a fait accompli, that it’s just going to happen?
Vince McKinnon: Yeah. I mean to keep a high metabolism and retain muscle mass, you have to lift weights. And we were talking about bone density. If you want to maintain bone density, strength training’s a great way to do that. So no matter what your age is, if we want to get muscle mass and like you said, have less flab on our arms, you need to strength train and lift weights. And you can really dive into a whole, are you like wanting to do a bodybuilding type thing? Do you want to focus on strength? But strength training in general is really beneficial for anyone in any age. So I don’t think you need to get caught up on the age number. If you want to increase muscle mass and have a higher metabolism and as a male help produce more testosterone, working out and lifting weights is going to do that. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: So, and that’s interesting you say that. Because I’ve, I think most guys, I’ll just speak for guys here for a minute. I think we think it’s the reverse. That testosterone leads to a better physique because you’re lifting weights. You’re saying if we lift weights it will increase your testosterone level?
Vince McKinnon: Yeah. Yep, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Very interesting.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah, there’s different foods, Susan can touch on some of the foods that are going to help you elevate it a little bit as well. But when you do compound movements like squats and dead lifts, it’s going to help your body produce and release more testosterone.
Susan Okonkowsk: Well and I think too, like resistance training, right? As we were talking about, you know, as you age, your bone density does change. So resistance training is going to help strengthen all of those muscles and tendons and ligaments around your joints. Because you know, my parents at my age, at their age, I should say, they’re starting to worry about like hip fractures and falls and things like that. So if you do those strength training exercises and resistance, you’re helping to just build everything up around so you are safer in the long run.
Chuck Gaidica: And here are three of us sitting here today, and I have to tell you that in my diet plan, I lean veggie, right? I’m not a vegetarian but I’m leaning into vegetables and fruits more. But at the same time that means I’m exposing myself to stuff like soy milk. I asked Grace in our last episode a little bit about this. Do you think that guys should be staying away from certain items that women don’t have to worry about because of estrogens and plant material? And there’s a lot of soy out there today, especially when you’re trying to find additional protein, healthy milk alternatives, right? Should we be worried about anything as men, that women don’t have to worry about?
Susan Okonkowsk: Not necessarily. You have to eat so much of it that it’s whether you’re a man or a woman. Because it’s like, you know, you worry about soy and estrogen with breast cancer risk. So there is … and again it comes down to balance. You know, you have a cup of soy milk or you have some edamame, you’re not going to risk yourself all of a sudden have like-
Vince McKinnon: Eda who? no, I’m just joking.
Susan Okonkowsk: That Edamame is so good.
Chuck Gaidica: It is, yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: But you know, those are some good soy protein there. You know, you’re not going to sit down and eat like a whole Bushel of it so you don’t have to worry.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah. One thing to keep in mind too, Chuck, is genetics. We’re all made up of the same things. We all look a little bit different. And I think we all need to keep in mind that you’re not going to probably look like someone on Muscle and Fiction. There’s a reason they look that way. They’re doing some very extreme things that are very dangerous to your health to look like that, which is completely fine. You know and people can make those decisions. But for us, you know, the quote unquote average Joe’s, we’re going to look a certain way and we have to do certain things. And like you’re asking about soy and Susan said you’d have to eat so much to have an impact. I think we just need to think about what we’re doing, what we’re made up of, and what our goals are and not get caught up on like, “I got to have a lot of protein.” Or, “I got to have a lot of this.” You know? And your body’s going to really going to tell you what you need or don’t need, you know?
Vince McKinnon: You started boxing and you got a pretty good regimen. You’re going to know if you need more food. You’re going to be really hungry, you’re going to start to get sore and you’re going to need more calories. So I think we need to listen to our bodies.
Chuck Gaidica: So I want to double back on something and for both of you, because I know you also both workout, so it’s not just everything we’re putting in our mouths. This notion of stretching. I think for a lot of us, I’m going to raise my hand on this. You talked about 10 to 15 minutes pre-workout, same thing afterward. It could be on a foam roller, it may be bands you know around your ankles and you’re walking through the room. I think for a lot of people, men and women, we tend to think stretching is like this blow off thing, right?
Chuck Gaidica: Like man, I’m just wasting time. I just want to get in, I want to workout and I got to go.
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s important though, isn’t it?
Vince McKinnon: It’s super important because you know, Superman can just pick up a car. Actually, he can. But you know, thinking about like if you’re me, I get up at 5:00 in the morning. If I just roll out of bed and started lifting, I came out of a dead sleep, everything super tight. So you need to stretch the muscle fibers to make sure they fire appropriately or you’re going to go in there and hurt yourself. You’re going to strain something because it isn’t loosened. And Susan’s a runner, you know, she probably has her best miles after she’s ran a mile or two. And you know why? Because her body’s warmed up, her muscles are firing and she’s good to go.
Vince McKinnon: And especially, again, to go back to most of our lifestyles, we set a lot. And we’re tight to begin with. And we all text, so we got our head down and bent over and we’re texting. And everything just needs to be stretched out and ready to go. I can’t stress it enough. There’s a ton of resources if you need to look up stretches and find things like that. But you need to make it a priority. And I found that out as I got older. The foam rolling, the stretching. And it’s not just stretching, it’s mobility too. That is going to make you a lot more successful.
Susan Okonkowsk: Oh yeah. Otherwise you start to have a lot of lactic acid build up and then you’re going to be sore and then you’re not going to want to work out. So it’s going to prevent you from actually doing what you need to do and want to do. And I agree, I did not stretch when I was younger. It’d be like, “Oh, I’m just going to like go out and start working out.” And then when I got into my thirties it was like, “No, this is really getting important.” And it’s only going to get more and more important as I get older because my skin is not the same, my bones are not the same. You know? It’s like we really do kind of pound down our bodies every single day. So it’s a really critical thing that I say even to anyone at any age. When you get out of bed in the morning, one of the best things you can do is a few stretches. Get your body kind of woken up before you do anything else.
Vince McKinnon: And I think, Chuck, for someone like you that’s exercising a lot and anybody out there, try to get a deep tissue massage once a month, you know? Go in. It’s not that expensive. Go in, have someone really work on you and rub everything out. And you know, stretch before you work out, stretch after, stretch in the middle of the day and just keep yourself loose.
Chuck Gaidica: And balance is a key thing. You were referencing your parents. But as people are aging I think you know, I try to think of somebody when I saw my parents kind of walking and having my dad especially, some balance issues. And I thought, not that he’s going to become a Ti Chi champion, you know, back in the day. But when I see people that are working on their balance, when they’re in their 50s, their 60s, and what that benefit could be as they’re aging.
Susan Okonkowsk: It’s huge.
Vince McKinnon: Quality of life.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And now the idea as well is as we get older, it’s not just because we’re old, but because time has allowed for surgeries and other maladies to crop up. We should not be embarrassed to embrace low impact exercise.
Vince McKinnon: No.
Susan Okonkowsk: No, not at all.
Chuck Gaidica: The pool is okay. Some people think, “Well, I’m embarrassed I can’t go lift weights like Vince.”
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Right? I mean-
Vince McKinnon: The pool’s okay, walking is a fantastic thing. Anything that you can do that’s going to be beneficial, you should do. And make sure you enjoy it.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yeah. You just got to move.
Vince McKinnon: Right.
Susan Okonkowsk: Move a little bit.
Chuck Gaidica: And it’s the consistency is great, but when you have a plan. I’ll tell you what I think in life If you can do anything for a month, you’ll get better at it. I mean, play the violin, you’ve never done it before. Change your diet. If you can do anything for a month, I think you’ll find some ideas.
Chuck Gaidica: We talked a little bit about a few of these items that we can just roll through maybe a little quicker. The idea of sleep, sleep patterns, how important is that? You talked about putting the right foods in your mouth before you start your day and your workouts. Getting that right amount of sleep is critical, right?
Vince McKinnon: Oh yeah, I can’t … And that’s like I talked about if I have a less than 100 grams of carbs, I feel awful. If I have less than seven hours of sleep, I do not feel good. And if I have less than five, I have a hard time operating. So I know personally, I’m at my best between seven and a half and eight hours, they recommend eight or more. For everybody, sometimes that’s not achievable. But I would say get as much sleep as you can. Shut the TV off. You know, there’s been studies, shut your phone … maybe not shut your phone off, but put it on silent and block the light because it admits like a type of blue light that can catch your attention and keep you up. Take as much as you can to distract your sleep out of the room as possible. Darken the room.
Chuck Gaidica: Stress. We can reduce our stress. That’s a great thing, all the way around.
Susan Okonkowsk: Oh it is.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: Yeah. But sleep is, it’s so important for your body.
Vince McKinnon: There’s nothing like, you know, for me, you have a hard day at work. I love going to do lunges at the track. The other day I had a tough day at work and I went to the track and I did 400 meters, the lunges. I was so whipped by the time I got done, I forgot about my day at work. So for me it’s a huge stress relief.
Chuck Gaidica: And I think the social changes that we touched on, this idea that you’re in a group of people. No matter what it is, even if you don’t know everybody. I don’t know everybody at a club. I don’t know everybody in the boxing place when I go to take a class. There’s just something nice about knowing there are other people trying it, and then not everybody is a super athlete.
Vince McKinnon: It’s contagious. And that’s a great point to go into a fitness club and everybody’s like you. You know what I mean? That makes it very comforting to see that we’re all the same.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, I mean, and there are some clubs where that’s not the case, right?
Vince McKinnon: It’s true, I’ve been to those too.
Chuck Gaidica: Where you know-
Vince McKinnon: We’re not created equal.
Chuck Gaidica: You can get intimidated before you even walk in the door.
Vince McKinnon: Yeah.
Susan Okonkowsk: For sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, it’s great to see both of you.
Susan Okonkowsk: Good to see you, Chuck.
Vince McKinnon: Awesome seeing you, Chuck. Fantastic.
Chuck Gaidica: You look good for your age.
Vince McKinnon: I know I do.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah, you look good. And you know, I think that’s another key to this idea is that as we age, I know for sure within the baby boomer realm, don’t you dare call us seniors. I mean don’t you even think. You can ask me to go to Frankenmuth on a, you know, to go get chicken dinner at Frankenmuth but I’m not getting on a bus with a bunch of other people. You know?
Vince McKinnon: That’s great.
Chuck Gaidica: So baby boomers are thinking differently. And I think that trickles down to the gen x and the and the millennials as well. We don’t think we are the age we are. And if this is now a shift, which I think has come in recent years.
Vince McKinnon: I agree.
Chuck Gaidica: I think we can extend our longevity if we embrace some of these great ideas from you guys today.
Vince McKinnon: I think we can and we should.
Susan Okonkowsk: We can.
Chuck Gaidica: Well thanks. Good to see you, Sue and Vince. We’ve got to remind you that if you like this, A Healthier Michigan Podcast brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and you want to know more, you can always check out the website, You can leave reviews there. You can also put a rating on Apple Podcast or Stitcher, and you can get all the great episodes. Last week, a couple of weeks ago, rather, we were talking more about nutrition. You can find some great episodes about all kinds of great stuff by going there and you can get them on your smart phone or your tablet. Be sure you subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Have a good rest of your day.

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