Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” The beauty of life and the gifts of growing older — deeper wisdom, greater knowledge, and a more complete sense of self — are enjoyed when we also maintain as much good health as possible. Healthy aging is about maximizing physical and mental health and living with energy and enthusiasm as we age. Here are some recommendations to help with healthy aging.
Eating and Drinking: Eat a diet of whole foods, avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible: for example, a whole piece of fruit, fresh/frozen vegetables, whole grain bread or pasta. Processed foods are those that are farther away from their natural state. Some examples include boxed crackers and cookies, boxed mac and cheese, white flour, and added sauces in frozen vegetables. We tend to eat less as we age, and each bite we take should be as nutritious as possible. Whole foods are rich in needed nutrients for a healthy digestive system. When considering what to drink, avoid excess caffeine, which is dehydrating, and alcohol. Choose water and tea when possible.
Physical Activity: Moving regularly is one of the best ways you can stay healthy and independent. Walk every day, and add some form of resistance exercise if possible. Light hand weights, resistance bands, or full body weight exercises (like wall push-ups) will help build muscle, which will improve your metabolism and reduce the risk of injury. If you have been sedentary, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Screenings and Wellness Visits: Keep your regularly scheduled appointments with your doctor, and discuss all recommended screenings. Screenings are meant to detect any medical issues early so treatment is more effective. Your doctor can also help you if you are looking to curb a bad habit (stop smoking) or wish to add supplements to your diet (vitamins or other over the counter supplements).
Social Connections: Staying connected to family and friends is important for healthy aging. Feeling alone and isolated is associated with increased risk of dementia, heart disease, and depression. Get or stay involved in groups and organizations that matter to you, connecting you with like-minded people. Feeling connected to and supported by others is associated with better physical and mental health.
Brain Training: Not only do we need to stay physically active as we age, we need to stay mentally active. Reading, playing games, playing an instrument, or learning a new hobby — all are ways to keep the brain active. Challenging your brain may help to reduce the risk of some types of dementia.
Growing older presents a number of benefits and potential challenges. Taking steps to age well will maximize the benefits and reduce the risk of challenges. No matter what age you are, eating well, moving regularly, and staying connected socially and intellectually can improve your overall health.
Source: Complete Wellness Solutions. Completely Well Newsletter, September 2022