We all know one thing about aging: it’s inevitable. However, some seem to be doing it much better than others; what are their secrets?
Today, the population of older adults in the United States is growing rapidly. According to the United States Census Bureau population projections, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent.1
Aging is a natural process. Our energy gets lower, our muscles get weaker, our eyesight is strained, our memory isn’t what it used to be, we are less flexible and more exhausted. The good news is that we can slow down the aging process by controlling many of the physical effects of the aging process. By practicing healthy aging, we may also be able to prevent some health problems.
Ways to Practice Healthy Aging
Healthy Eating and Drinking
As you age, your dietary needs may change. Your body may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. A healthy balanced diet helps in aging gracefully. A healthy eating plan includes:
- Eating foods that are full of nutrients without a lot of extra calories. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds. Listed below are a few nutrient-dense foods with associated health benefits:
- Berries – loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- Fish – (salmon/sardines) contains Omega-3’s that provide for a healthy heart
- Yogurt – provides calcium to maintain healthy bone density and probiotics that help regulate digestion
- Tomatoes – contain lycopene, a natural antioxidant
- Nuts – a great source of Omega-3’s, fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats
- Avoiding processed and packaged foods, unhealthy fats, and empty calories, such as foods like chips, candy, baked goods, soft drinks, and alcohol
- Eating foods that are low in cholesterol and fat
- Staying hydrated by drinking enough liquids
It is important to note that supplements are a great way to get adequate amounts of nutrients we can’t get with diet alone. Persona Nutrition can help you find supplements to help support healthy aging. A quick assessment can provide you with personalized vitamin and supplement recommendations based on your health and lifestyle needs.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is important at every age. If we stay active in our daily activities and with our daily exercise, we need to rest. Sleep is the time when our muscles, organs, and brain repair themselves. It is helpful to wake and sleep on schedule every day. By having a regular schedule and bedtime routine, your internal body clock can stay in sync, so you get the sleep you need. If you are having trouble falling asleep, practice these tips:
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark
- Power down the electronics
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evening
- Don’t nap longer than 20 minutes during the day
Engage Your Brain
Studies have shown that learning new things can help slow cognitive decline. Continue to challenge your mind as you age by reading, learning new things, and switching up your routine.
Watch extra weight around your mid-section
I think we can all be honest here and address the obvious: we probably won’t get any better looking as we age. If our looks were going to forever stay the same, we wouldn’t need wrinkle creams or hair loss prescriptions. With natural aging our metabolism will also slowdown, which can make it easier to gain weight. I always have to chuckle at myself when my grandmother informs me that she is going “on a diet” for a few weeks to lose some weight around her belly. I roll my eyes and tell her to stop obsessing over a few pounds and focus on eating healthy, but her diligent attention to detail of her dietary habits have kept her in great health. Studies show that overweight or not, having an excess of abdominal fat is associated with an increased risk of dying from heart disease or other causes than those who do not have central fat.2Keep an eye on the type of fat you consume in your diet; avoid trans fats and keep saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your diet.3Focus on whole foods and avoid packaged snacks and desserts, and limit the amount of fatty meat in your diet.
Stay Socially Connected with Your Family, Community or Group of Friends
Meaningful relationships and a strong social network can improve mental and physical well-being. An active social life keeps you young! Studies have proven that many physical benefits are directly linked to active social lives. Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, has studied some of these effects. In one study, over 1,100 seniors without dementia were followed over a 12-year period. The study found that cognitive decline was 70 percent less in those who had frequent social encounters than those who did not, a significant difference. “When you use your brain and body the way it was intended—as it evolved—you age better,” says James. “We just aren’t meant to be disengaged from one another.”4It is important to stay socially connected to prevent loneliness. Staying socially connected can be as simple as
- Enjoying dinner with family and friends and sharing highlights from your day
- Volunteering in your community – a great way to meet new friends
- Don’t forget about our furry friends! Pets have been linked to lower stress and blood pressure, reduced loneliness, and better moods experienced by their caretakers
The possibilities are endless. Aging is inevitable, so make the most of it!
If you are a smoker, quitting is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. It can lower your risk of several different types of cancer, certain lung diseases, and heart disease.
Be Physically Active: Move More, Sit Less Throughout the Day
Being active can help you prevent, delay, and manage chronic diseases; improve balance and stamina; reduce the risk of falls; and improve brain health. The key to staying active as you age is finding exercises you enjoy. Try to incorporate exercises that improve cardiovascular health, balance, and muscular strength. Aim for moderate physical activity 30 minutes every day. If that is too much, break it up into shorter periods. Plan a strengthening activity (yes, carrying groceries counts) at least two days a week. Make sure you participate in activities and hobbies that you enjoy.
Maintain Regular Health Screenings
Schedule regular doctor’s visits and health screenings and make sure you are vaccinated each cold and flu season.
We can’t stop the aging clock, but we can control how we age and improve how we feel. Following these tips can help you stay healthy as you age. Improvements made in your 30s, 40s, and 50s can lead to a stronger and healthier YOU in your 60s, 70s, and 80s. It’s never too late to start taking care of your health, surrounding yourself with people you love, and doing things that bring you joy.