What you eat and how much can make a major difference in feeling – and being – healthy. Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity at the American Cancer Society, makes the following suggestions:
• Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories consumed. Be aware that "low-fat" or "nonfat" does not necessarily mean "low-calorie."
• Eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods.
•Choose vegetables, whole fruit and other low-calorie foods instead of calorie-dense foods.
• Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.
•When you eat away from home, be especially mindful to choose food low in calories, fat and added sugar, and avoid consuming large portion sizes.
Exercise is the second part of the equation, experts say.
"Strive to be moderately active for at least 150 minutes each week. Moderately active is equivalent to walking a mile in 15 minutes," Doyle said.
"And look for other ways to incorporate activity into your day – take the stairs, park further from your office door in the parking lot, carry your own groceries out from the store, do leg lifts while you watch TV. Again, make a physically active lifestyle your norm."
Dr. Catherine Loria, nutritional epidemiologist in the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, said to engage in behavior therapy. This means using tools to monitor your caloric intake and your physical activity; setting goals and finding social support for your weight loss goals.
"Having a buddy who walks with you, who helps you when you have a relapse -- you can help keep each other going," Dr. Loria said.
How much weight should people try to take off? Results seem to appear in as little as five to 10 percent, experts said.
"Modest weight loss like five to 10 percent can reduce blood pressure. There's a very clear relationship," Dr. Loria said.
Interestingly, Dr. Loria said, there have not been a lot of weight loss trials for people over 50. However, the studies that have been done are promising for people over 60.
"People who are 60 and older tend to be better at losing weight," Dr. Loria said. "We don't really know for sure why. We're guessing it's because they are retired and have more time to pay attention to what they are doing."
But what about people who think it's too late to take off the weight because they are too old?
"It's never too late to reduce your risks," Dr. Loria said.