How would you like to live well into old age? To be independent and live a life full of vitality and energy without suffering from the effects of chronic illnesses? What is healthy aging, and how can you achieve this?
Let´s dive right in. Advancements in technology and medical health care allow people to live longer than ever. However, as you age, sickness and disease try to weaken your body.
Environmental factors (weather) and genetics (which you have no control over) can affect your health. There are choices you can make to control/turn your life and health around.
Even if you have not always made the best choices in the past, starting a healthy lifestyle as an adult can still have an impact on your quality of life. It is never too late to start investing in your health and making wiser choices.
The dictionary describes Healthy aging as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age.
Factors that can impact your health
Many factors can have a lasting impact on your health as you grow older. Living a healthy lifestyle makes transitioning into older age easier. Some factors include:
As humans age, muscle function starts to decline. Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain muscle mass and prevent age-related decline at any age. A healthy muscle mass allows older adults to live longer, feel more energized, and live a life full of vitality. A body in motion is good for preserving health and wellness. There are many ways to get your body moving, such as:
- walking (take stairs instead of the elevator, walk around park, mall, neighborhood)
- exercise weekly (consult your physician first to see what type of workout program is good for you)
Diet (smart food choices)
The foods you eat play a vital role in aging. A healthy diet has many benefits, from strengthening your immune system to maintaining your weight. Here are some diet choices that are most beneficial to older adults.
The Mediterranean Diet (prevents heart disease and stroke)
Olive oil is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. This diet is mostly plant-based:
- whole grains
- seeds herbs
DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks)
This diet encourages the consumption of foods rich in:
- whole grains
- fat-free/low-fat dairy products
MIND Diet (combination of the Mediterranean and Dash diets. Official name Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay-promotes brain health). The MIND Diet may decrease oxidative stress and inflammation. This diet allows:
- green leafy vegetables
- non-starchy vegetables
- olive oil
- whole grains
- beans lean poultry
- a moderate amount of wine
Avoid butter/margarine, cheese, red meat, fried foods, pastries, and sweets.
Being overweight as an older adult increases your risk of having chronic illnesses therefore, it is good to stay active and make better choices about your diet.
Being too thin as an older adult is not necessarily healthier as this can pose many problems in itself, such as increasing the risk of bone fractures, and weakening the immune system, and many times being too skinny can be a symptom of a disease in itself.
A good night´s rest is vital to staying healthy and keeps you alert. Older adults need the same amount of sleep as all adults; however, many times, they do not get it because of the side effects of some medicines, and being sick and in pain can rob anyone of getting sufficient sleep.
Sleeping impacts your memory and your mood. Poor sleep can worsen depression in older adults.
Stop bad behavioral practices
Smoking and excessive drinking do not promote good health. Scientific evidence shows strong evidence of premature aging in specific brain regions in alcohol-dependent people (irrespective of gender).
Quitting smoking and alcohol drinking can vastly improve the quality of your life.
Regular Doctor visits
Regular doctor visits are necessary for healthy aging as it is easy to catch diseases early and reduce risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Harmful changes in cells/molecular structure may start in your body years before you start to feel any symptoms of a disease. Tests can detect changes and help in proper diagnosis and treatment.
Healthy lifestyle changes keep older adults cognitively (cognitive exercises-cross word puzzles) healthy.
Leisure activities and hobbies
Immersing yourself in activities you are passionate about and love doing, can have a great impact on your mental and physical health. Hobbies and leisure activities can increase your level of satisfaction and joy in your life. Other benefits include:
- helps preserve cognitive and physical function
- improve mental health
- improve emotional well-being
- promote positive feelings
Japan and Italy are the top countries with the largest aging population.
Studies show that alcohol consumption is on the rise among older female adults.
A study of adults 40 years and older indicates that improving your steps to 8,000 or more can lower your risk of death from all causes by 51%.
Regular consumption of green leafy vegetables can slow cognitive decline.
The presence and buildup of beta-amyloid protein present in Alzheimer´s disease are common in older adults who experience inadequate sleep patterns for prolonged periods.
Quality sleep lowers the rate of heart disease, insulin resistance controls blood sugar levels and improves creativity.
Older adults who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night are at higher risk of developing dementia.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
1 in 6 older adults is physically abused.
There is a high suicide rate for white males 60 years old and older.
Struggles and stumbling blocks
Things to be aware of
Mental health can affect older adults. It may not be easily detectable. Help is available for anyone suffering from mental health issues, so please reach out and get help if you need it.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but it affects about 1%-5% of the elderly population.
Changes in lifestyle and financial changes after retirement, among other factors, can cause stress.
Loss of loved ones and social isolation, these life changes can make it difficult to maintain social connections, and loneliness is a real struggle for older adults. Repairing broken relationships with loved ones and building social connections are great ways to combat loneliness.
Older adults are a valuable asset to every society as pillars in the family unit and volunteers in their community. It is possible to age healthier a healthy lifestyle offers you a chance to grow older and enjoy a rich, fulfilling, and rewarding life.
You can grow older gracefully with an active lifestyle, full of meaning and purpose, and without constant pain and sickness in your body.
Your body can be a machine that revs up energy and is full of vitality or a breeding ground full of weakness, pain, and diseases. It is never too late to start making healthier and happier choices.
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