March 25, 2011

USA: Seniors share their secret to looking great at 70

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana / / EyeWitness News / March 25, 2011

 Meg FarrisEyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- You might not believe your eyes when you see the people in their 70s fit, toned and looking decades younger in revealing clothes. In fact, some say they look as though they have found the fountain of youth.

So what is the secret to their extraordinary health?

A New Orleans woman used to weigh 140. Now she's at 115 pounds.

A Metairie man trimmed his 38-inch waist to 30 inches.

The two have something in common. They decided to start weightlifting more than 20 years ago. Today, they defy stereotypes of senior citizens.

"I just made 70, January the 8th," said Emelina Edwards with a huge smile on her face.

After a second divorce, Edwards became a single mother of two, with no job, and fell into a depression. That's when she decided getting healthy was a place to start.

"When I turned to the side, my stomach came out farther than my chest," she said, laughing. "And I thought, I have to do something."

Getting fit became her career. Today she is a personal trainer, is working on a book, writes fitness articles, speaks to conventions, and has created a video, cookbook and motivational publication.

"I have never felt better," Edwards said. "I'm stronger. I'm happier. I am just passionate about what I do more than I was, even 10 years ago."

Bob Gale is 73 and says even though he coached high school athletics and did some exercise, his life changed when he starting building muscle by weight lifting.

"My weight dropped. I lost about 35 pounds, and my endurance, and I'm living. I'm living a good life because I feel healthy," said Gale.

The chief of geriatrics at LSU Health Sciences Center, Dr. Charles Cefalu, said studies show the commitment Gale and Edwards made to work out and eat a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, will change their futures.

Their lifestyle will boost brain, heart, lung, muscle and even skin function. The immune system will be stronger, fighting off infections and even cancer cells. They will be less likely to fall, get osteoporosis and even slow down arthritis and Alzheimer's. There will be better control of blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, and they will be less likely to go in to a nursing home.

"You'd see a leaner population which is going to have a better quality of life, less infections, less risk of pneumonia, less risk of urinary tract infections, less risk of depression, and when you tie in depression, then you have stroke and heart attack and other complications," explained Dr. Cefalu.

In fact, Dr. Cefalu said the more you exercise, the less you'll notice the aging process.

Oh, and the name of Edwards' new book?

"Well, it's titled, 'Seventy, the new 40,' " she laughs.

Local doctors say a lot of the chronic illness they see in the senior population here could have been avoided by living a more healthful lifestyle, such as not smoking, keeping a normal weight and exercising.

And by the way, Edwards stopped sun bathing in high school, which doctors say keeps your skin from photo-aging.

To contact Emelina B. Edwards her e-mail is: