Whether its traveling to a new country, spending time with friends and family, or pursuing hobbies, the golden years are filled with opportunities to enjoy life to the fullest. Although changes in physical, mental, and emotional health are a normal part of growing older, there is much you can do to stay healthy and active. Read on to discover our tips for healthy aging in this blog.
Simple Steps for Healthy Aging
The saying “Use it or lose it!” certainly applies here as exercise plays a key role in healthy aging. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk for chronic diseases – such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Research also suggests that individuals who exercise regularly live longer than their sedentary counterparts, while enjoying a better quality of life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. That equates to about 30 minutes per day. If 30 minutes is too much, look for ways to stay active throughout the day – small blocks of exercise can add up to make a big difference!
For maximum health benefits, seniors should opt for a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Taking a brisk walk, cycling, swimming, gardening, and golfing are all ways to get your heart pumping, while Pilates, yoga, and lifting weights are great for strengthening your muscles.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Older adults who want to remain healthy as they age should pay close attention to what is on their plates. That’s according to the American Heart Association, who shares that eating a well-balanced diet offers numerous benefits that may include preventing chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
The risk of developing heart disease grows as we age, and while we can’t slow the hands of time, there is much we can do to protect our hearts and overall health. The Mediterranean diet, which is favors fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats has been shown to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as slow cognitive decline.
Another health concern for older adults – especially for women – is osteoporosis. The result of bones becoming brittle and weak, osteoporosis can lead to serious health complications like hip or spinal fractures. In addition to protecting your heart, a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and dairy products, may also help protect your bones.
Manage Chronic Illnesses
The National Council on Aging shares that the likelihood of developing a chronic disease increases significantly after the age of 65. In fact, 80 percent of adults over the age of 65 have one chronic illness, and 68 percent have two. Although exercise and eating a healthy diet can lower your risk for developing certain diseases – genetics and age also play a large role.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, managing it correctly is a key component to healthy aging. Left untreated or poorly controlled, health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can negatively impact your health and your quality of life. Scheduling regular checkups with your specialist and primary care physician will help ensure you catch any problems early, and that the treatment plan you have been prescribed is working. Also, it is important to be sure you are taking your medications as prescribed, and let your doctor know if your condition changes.
Keep Your Brain Active
Healthy aging includes the mind as well as the body. Lapses in memory – forgetting where you put your car keys, or why you walked into a room – are not uncommon as we age. Although frustrating, this type of memory loss usually isn’t a cause for concern. Staying mentally active can help to slow age-related cognitive decline, and is great to include in your healthy aging strategy.
Challenging your mind isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Learning a new skill or hobby, or volunteering to read to students at your local school are great ways you can keep your mind active. Need more ideas? Grab a jigsaw puzzle or sign-up for a meditation class. Use your imagination and have fun!
Socializing with friends is also another way to stay mentally active that may also prevent loneliness and depression. Try joining a book club, or ask a friend to meet you for coffee – your brain will thank you for it!
Get Your Zzzzzs
If it seems like growing older and poor sleep are connected, you’d be correct. From medication side effects to pain from chronic illnesses, there are numerous reasons why getting a full night’s sleep can be more difficult as we age. Other causes may include restless leg syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults over 65 aim for 7 to 8 hours of rest per night. Sleep is essential to helping repair and restore your body, and not getting enough can negatively impact your health. Sleep deprivation may lead to higher levels of inflammation, a weakened immune system, and reduced concentration and productivity.
If you are having a tough time falling or staying asleep, you certainly aren’t alone. The Cleveland Clinic shares that a significant number of adults 65 and over report sleep disturbances. To get a better night’s sleep, try these following recommendations from the National Institute on Aging:
- Be consistent with the time you wake up and the time you go to bed.
- If you need to nap, keep it short and earlier in the day.
- Keep your room dark and at a temperature that is comfortable for you.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake – especially later in the day.
Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine or making dietary changes.