Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said “It’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years!” The World Health Organization, or WHO, defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age.” Functional ability means you can DO what you value.
- What do you value?
- Walking your dog in the evening?
- Playing golf, tennis or swimming with friends?
- Driving to the store everyday?
- Traveling to the beach or city with your spouse?
- Cooking for the holidays?
- Playing with your grandchildren?
These simple pleasures are what make life worth living.
The Secrets To Healthy Aging
While genetics play a large role in determining how you age, lifestyle can be the real deciding factor. Take control NOW to encourage a healthy life well into old age.
–Exercise for at least 250 minutes each week-elevating your heart rate with a brisk walk, cycling, swimming, dancing, playing a racquet sport or using the elliptical machine, any other physical activity. Exercise strengthens bones, muscles, joints, and works your cardiovascular and respiratory systems which is especially important among older adults. Our bodies are meant to move! Include strength training to counteract age related muscle loss. Add flexibility work like yoga and balance exercises like balancing on one leg. Exercise is one of the most important ways to ensure you age well. Exercising also helps with your mental health.
–Improve your nutrition by focusing on more of a plant-based diet rich with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, and lean protein. Ditch processed foods loaded with fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Reduce your intake of saturated fat from meat and dairy. Improvements in your diet will result in immediate results as you lose weight, reduce your risk for disease, and feel better.
–Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is related to many chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke and a shorter lifespan. Even a small percentage of weight loss can change your health profile. Commit to a healthier diet and exercise and your will be successful at weight loss. A healthy weight means you are able to participate in the activities you love.
–Don’t smoke. It is never too late to quit. Smokers live about 10 years less than non-smokers. Smoking exposes you to toxic chemicals, which cause cancer, and a range of other health related issues. Many people often avoid smokers, which can lead to social isolation and depression. Talk to your physician about quitting.
–Get enough sleep most nights. Studies show that sleeping less than 5 hours, or more than 9 hours, raises the risk of all cause mortality. Adequate sleep has shown to help prevent falls in older adults and improves immune function. Sleep is where the magic happens.
–Manage your stress. Stress causes inflammation in your body. Inflammation is the cause of most illness and chronic disease. Meditation, yoga, exercise, journaling, time outdoors in nature, and time with loved ones are all great ways to relieve your stress.
–Know and work to improve your numbers. Know your cholesterol, A1C, blood pressure and BMI. Check them regularly. Work to get your numbers in the normal range.
–Visit your physician every year. Perform screenings for breast, colon and skin cancer. A yearly checkup means you will catch any health conditions at the early stage, while treatment is still an option.
-Drink in moderation. Alcohol is a toxin that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, depression, falls, drug interactions, and early death. Know your limits. Learn to socialize without using alcohol as a crutch. You will live longer.
-Prioritize social interactions. Studies show people who have deep social connections, live longer, happier lives. Take the time to stay connected to people you care about, make new friends, and look forward to regular social gatherings.
-Keep learning. Lifelong learners can help slow cognitive decline and dementia. Your memory and thinking skills will be enhanced as your brain gets a workout. Your problem solving and coping skills will strengthen. You will also be happier and more fulfilled. Learn Spanish, take up the piano or guitar, challenge yourself to knit a scarf, research and cook healthy meals, take a dance or acting class….there are so many NEW things to learn no matter your age.
Keep Abe’s truthful words in mind “It’s not the years in your life the count, but the life in your years!” Work now to ensure your latter years are filled with activity, time with loved ones, and good health. What changes can you make today to impact how you will age?
by Christy Coughlin
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