10 tips for healthy aging

Television personality and entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey once said, “With age comes the understanding and appreciation of your most important asset, your health.” Getting older goes far beyond being a simple passage of time, it’s an opportunity to live an optimally healthy life. September is Healthy Aging Month and it’s a perfect time to evaluate whether we are developing or maintaining habits that will support our mental, social and physical well-being. The following tips can help support overall health and ideal aging. Be sure to consult your medical provider before beginning any diet and exercise program.

  1. Remain active. Physical activity helps fight chronic disease and the effects of aging. Regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help older adults stay strong and capable of doing daily activities like personal care, household chores and cooking. These everyday activities are crucial to maintaining independence longer in life.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Following a healthy and balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and complex carbohydrates helps provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that keep the body functioning properly and to maintain energy levels. It also helps lower the risk of developing a chronic disease or helps keep a condition in check.
  3. Get more fiber. Eating fiber promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Studies have also shown that fiber reduces cholesterol and protects against heart disease. Add foods like beans, complex carbohydrates such as bran, barley and oatmeal;and high fiber fruits such as raspberries, pears and apples.
  4. Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to several chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and COPD. Additionally, smoking not only damages and impairs the inside of the body, it causes the outside of the body to look older. Nicotine in tobacco products causes blood vessels to narrow, which impairs blood flow. Less blood flow starves the skin of important nutrients and oxygen.
  5. Drink in moderation. Studies have shown that alcoholic beverages such as red wine are beneficial to health in small moderate amounts. However, excessive alcohol consumption takes a toll on the body and increases the risk for certain diseases. For example, according to the National Cancer Institute, people who regularly drink 3.5 drinks per day have 1.5 times the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  6. Get some sleep.  It’s a myth that older people need less sleep than younger people. However, sleep patterns do change as people age and many seniors report getting less sleep. This could be a sign of insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is higher among older adults. The organization reports that 44 percent of older people experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights or more per week. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.
  7. Keep your mind in shape. Some cognitive decline is a normal part of aging; however, keeping the mind active can minimize the effects of an older brain. Engaging in stimulating activities such as reading and games can help maintain a sharp mind and minimize the risk of dementia.
  8. Cut down stress. Stress is the body’s natural response to any kind of demand or threat. However, chronic stress wears down mental and physical health and is linked to conditions such as depression and heart disease. Talking to a doctor, social worker or therapist can be beneficial to stress management.These professionals can help with lifestyle changes that will alleviate symptoms of stress.
  9. Work on balance. One of the drawbacks to the combination of an aging body and brain is the increased risk of falls. Low-impact activities such as yoga and tai chi can help improve flexibility and strengthen balance without putting strain on the joints.
  10. Build relationships. Getting older may mean changes to our relationships with others such as family and friends, but it’s also an opportunity to build new connections. Social engagement is important to emotional well-being and helps combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Join a social group in the local community, participate in volunteer efforts or regularly visit a senior center.