Aging gracefully, anti-aging, healthy aging, and longevity – while these may be terms we’ve heard before, navigating what this means and understanding how we can live a longer, better life is half the battle. Many factors influence how we age such as lifestyle choices, environment and genetics.
Making simple shifts in your daily routine may help you improve your quality of life and live independently for as long as possible.
1. Stay physically active.
Being physically active helps maintain a healthy weight, balance, endurance, strength, and so much more. Obese adults have an increased risk of death, disability, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Those who exercise regularly may not only live longer but may enjoy more years of life without pain or disability.
A study of adults 40 years of age and older who take 8,000+ steps per day, compared to 4,000 steps, was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes. Trying to move your body every day with activities such as walking the dog, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, parking the car further away from the store, and spending time gardening will add more, better years to your life.
2. Choose to eat healthy foods.
When it’s time to eat, making smart food choices can help protect you from certain health- related problems. A diet low in salt, and rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins become more important as we get older. Eating a well-balanced diet helps reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
3. Get enough quality sleep.
Sleep is important at any age, and it becomes even more essential during the aging process. Mature adults should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep daily, although sleep becomes harder to come by as we get older. It’s not uncommon for sleep to get interrupted by a trip to the bathroom, from side effects of medication, pain, or anxiety. Falling short of getting enough quality sleep is a threat to overall health and can make a person irritable, depressed, forgetful, and have an increased risk for falls.
A study showed that those in their 50s and 60s who received six hours of sleep or less a night were at higher risk of developing dementia later in life. Another study found that older adults who did not sleep well and napped often were at greater risk of death within the next five years.
4. Refrain from smoking.
No matter how long a person has been addicted to the smoking habit, the benefits of quitting at any age include a lower risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease, improved blood circulation, improved sense of taste and smell, and increased exercise ability.
Need proof? A study showed that older adults who quit smoking between the ages of 45 and 54 lived about six years longer compared to those who continued to smoke. Adults who quit between the ages of 55 to 64 lived about four years longer.
5. Limit consumption of alcohol.
The act of aging can lead to social and physical changes that may make it challenging to deal with, therefore, older adults should especially limit or avoid alcohol consumption. These shifts can make older adults vulnerable to alcohol misuse and abuse as a coping mechanism. Alcohol dependence and heavy drinking affects every organ in the body. Researchers have found evidence that certain regions of the brain show signs of premature aging in alcohol-dependent men and women.
6. Regularly visit your doctor.
Healthy aging involves being diligent with regular checkups and recommended health screenings. Appointments with doctors and specialists increase the chances of catching early onset of chronic diseases and other health issues. This provides the opportunity to create a plan of care with both preventive and therapeutic measures.
7. Stay engaged and connected.
With age, comes changes to the body such as loss of hearing, vision and memory, oftentimes making it difficult to maintain social relationships. Compound that with the loss of family and friends over the years, and it all adds up to added health-risks. These factors can make it difficult to maintain social connections which is why many elders become isolated and lonely. The feeling of loneliness and isolation can snowball and affect mental health but staying engaged with your circle of trusted communities helps offset social isolation.
8. Reduce stress.
Stress at any age has negative health effects but older adults are particularly susceptible. Even happy changes, like the birth of a grandchild, can cause stress in the elderly. Researchers have found that cortisol levels in a person’s body increase steadily after middle-age and constant stress can change the brain and affect memory. Practicing meditation and engaging in other calming, stress-reducing activities can benefit overall health.
9. Fight off depression.
Depression lurks amongst the older population and hides in the feelings of sadness and disinterest. Engaging in activities that bring joy can have positive effects such as increasing self- esteem and better health.
Leading a life of healthy behaviors such as a well-balanced diet, regular moderate exercise, no smoking or drinking, and cognitive activities reduces risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%. And just by practicing two or three of those activities lowers risk by 37%.
Sometimes, taking the proper measures for healthy aging by itself is not enough. To help support overall physical health as we age, consider incorporating nutraceutical grade supplements with targeted health benefits into your daily routine. Remember, healthy aging is a lifestyle!