Is there a formula for successful healthy aging? Sure, your hair sprouts more grays and your face sports more lines. But you can grow older with your body and mind as healthy as they can possibly be.
Here are science-backed secrets to do just that
Much of what happens on the outside of your body is the result of what you put in it
It’s more a way of eating than a formal diet. You load up on veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy. You eat less fatty meats, butter, sugar, salt, and packaged foods.
Foods high in sugar and white carbohydrates can actually age you faster by breaking down glucose. Many studies have found that this diet can help you live longer and protects against heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe one way it works is by physically changing parts of your chromosomes linked to age-related diseases.
Aim for 30 minutes every day. If that’s too much, break it up into shorter strolls. Regular exercise — especially if you do it briskly enough to feel a little breathless — delivers huge health benefits. It help keep brain cells healthy by delivering more blood and oxygen. In fact, research suggests aerobic exercise may delay or improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps:
- Control your weight
- Boost your mood
- Keep bones and muscles strong
- Helps you sleep better
- Makes you less likely to get heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
Life is change. When familiar routines suddenly dissolve, it can seem as if all your supports are gone. Resisting it wastes precious time and energy. Living for it can create adventures you never thought possible. Because now is the best time to explore what it is that you really like. Catch yourself off-guard and see what happens. At a time when I was feeling most stuck, I spontaneously volunteered to get up onstage at an open-mic. The experience was elating and terrifying and showed me that I wanted to lead a more creative life. Learn to live with uncertainty, because that anxious feeling does not signal that you’re doing something wrong, only that you’re trying something new.
Staying connected can improve your health
“The experience of being lonely appears to be bad for one’s health,” says Dr. Nancy J. Donovan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. If you feel lonely, whether you live alone or with someone, have lots of friends or none , you are more likely to get dementia or depression. Retirees who report feeling left out and isolated have more trouble with everyday tasks like bathing and climbing stairs. They also die earlier than less-lonely folks do. Researchers found that lonely people have higher levels of stress hormones that cause inflammation, or swelling, linked to arthritis and diabetes. Another study found more antibodies to certain herpes viruses in lonely people, a sign of stress in their immune system. So stay or make friends. Do volunteer work or simply help someone in need. Just connect.
It’s an easy way to eat your way to better health with every meal and snack. Swap out your white bread for whole grain. Add kidney beans to your soup or apple slices to your salad. Fiber fills you up and for longer. It cuts your cholesterol levels and lowers your chance of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
It also helps you avoid constipation, which is more common in older adults. After age 50, men should aim for 30 grams of fiber a day and women should get 21 grams a day.
Can a pill restore dewiness in aging skin? Maybe. It’s often better to get your nutrients from food, not a pill. And you usually don’t need special supplements aimed at seniors.
After age 50, your body does need more of some vitamins and minerals from foods or supplements than before. They include:
- Calcium (to keep bones strong)
- Vitamin D (Most people get it from sunlight, but some seniors may not get out enough.)
- Vitamin B12 (Older people have trouble absorbing it from foods, so you may need fortified cereals or a supplement.)
- Vitamin B6 (It keeps your red blood cells strong to carry oxygen throughout your body.)
Tell your doctor about any supplements you take so you can avoid bad interactions with any medications or treatments.