Healthy Aging | 7 Ways To Keep On Track As You Get Older
Aging is a part of life. As you age, you may find that an increasing number of wrinkles on your face isn’t the only thing that changes. Your body is likely going through many other changes in your heart, bones and muscles, brain, and even your digestion. Healthy aging is preventative care of your body and mind.
Here are seven ways to promote healthy aging so that you can become a better version of your younger self:
1. Get Moving Through Exercise
Exercise and physical activity are the foundation of healthy aging. Whether you love it or hate it, physical activity promotes cardiovascular health, mental health, and independence as you age. Physical activity should focus on four different areas: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Regular exercise and physical activity can reduce your risk of developing diseases associated with aging, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
In fact, cardiovascular health is not only linked to your heart. Recent studies link developing dementia with poor cardiovascular health. At age 50, people with better heart health, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, were less likely to develop brain changes related to dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Exercise and physical activity are ways to continually promote better cardiovascular health.
For aging adults, motivating workout routines that can be modified based on your level will be the most successful. While regular exercise is important, regular physical activity can also promote cardiovascular health.
The key is to get moving and keep moving every day. If you don't exercise regularly and aren't sure where to begin, you can try a fitness app like 8fit that will help you discover new, equipment-free workouts that match your goals and lifestyle. Even just 30 minutes a day can put you on a path towards healthy aging.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of healthy aging. Many health problems are linked to obesity and being overweight, including increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis. The biggest issue for aging adults is body-fat distribution around the waist, which is linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.
However, thinner is not always better with respect to weight in aging adults. A recent study found that older adults with a body-mass index (BMI) of less than 19 had a higher mortality rate than those with BMIs in the normal or obese ranges. A low BMI or significant weight loss can be a symptom of disease or frailty associated with aging.
Focusing on maintaining a healthy BMI and weight is more important than being thin, especially as you age. Discuss with your doctor lifestyle changes you can make to maintain a healthy weight and achieve healthy aging.
3. Think About What You Eat
Diet is known to directly affect your BMI and waist circumference. Dietary patterns are known to influence changes in BMI and waist circumference, which increases your risk for other diseases.
Limit intake of foods with high saturated fats and sugar, such as processed and red meats, fast food, and soda. Increase your intake of high-fiber foods, low-fat dairy, fruit, whole grains, beans, and vegetables. These types of food are linked to smaller gains in BMI and waist circumference.
Micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies can contribute to physical problems during aging. Promote healthy aging through proper nutrition. Higher intake of fruits and vegetables protects against inflammation, poor physical performance, and disability.
A recent study suggests that poor vegetable and fruit intake in older adults puts them at higher risk for decreased muscle strength over time. Healthy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, fish, and poultry can provide the nutrients and vitamins to protect from inflammation and promote physical performance.
4. Reduce Stress and Enjoy Life
Studies link leisure activities to lower risk of dementia. Leisure activities can include reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, or dancing. Certain leisure activities can also promote physical activity and reduce stress.
Increased stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. People who are sociable and goal-oriented report higher happiness and lower levels of depression.
A recent study linked having a purpose in life to improved physical function in aging adults. Doing what you like to do is good for your overall health and contributes to stress reduction. By maintaining healthy relationships and having goals for the future, you can promote your physical well-being.
5. Develop Healthy Sleep Routines
Quality sleep is important for your overall well-being. Getting enough sleep increases your energy levels and promotes your body's ability to heal and repair itself. Specifically, seven to nine hours of quality sleep allows your heart and blood vessels to heal. This reduces your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Changes to sleep patterns are a normal part of aging. Speak with your doctor about lifestyle changes to promote healthy aging.
Stick to a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Promote sleep throughout your environment. This might include setting a comfortable temperature, reducing noise, and limiting light stimulation.
6. Work Your Brain
Mental health and aging go hand in hand. Your brain changes as it ages, which may affect your memory and thinking. Older adults may begin to forget names or words, and multitasking may become difficult. Promoting cognitive brain health is important for healthy aging.
Daily exercise and physical activity increase blood flow to your brain. By staying active, you can keep your mind and body sharp. You can also exercise your brain through new hobbies, such as playing an instrument or taking an art class.
Aging comes with an increased risk of dementia. If you are concerned about memory loss or other changes to your mental health, talk to your doctor.
7. Practice Fall Prevention
Falls are a major cause of disability in aging adults. Fear of falling may prevent aging adults from staying active, but this approach increases the risk of falls due to inactivity. Falls can be caused by confusion, muscle weakness, blood pressure changes, or foot problems. One in four adults over the age of 65 have experienced a fall.
As you age, you are more prone to issues with balance. By performing balance exercises, you can reduce your risk of falls. Find an exercise program such as 8fit to improve muscle strength and flexibility. By taking care of your overall health, you can lower your chances of falling.
Featured photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash