September is Healthy Aging Month - an annual event focusing on the positive aspects of growing older. During this time, we look to highlight the importance of habits that can help you stay healthy as you age.
Why is this important?
Maintaining good health can help you continue to live a productive, active, and independent lifestyle.
But what steps should you take to maintain your health?
What areas should you focus on?
In today’s article, we’ll be sharing tips to help you live a healthy, independent, and active lifestyle as you age.
Keep reading to learn more!
We all know that staying active is key to maintaining our health.
Studies show that exercising continuously can help us live longer. And Harvard Health suggests that exercise can improve quality of life as well.
But what does that mean?
It means that regular exercise can help you maintain your health, independence, and overall mobility as you age. It may also aid your energy levels, sleep, strength, and more.
Exercise can also reduce the risk of stroke, heart attacks, and obesity — and it may even help prevent different forms of cancer like prostate and colon cancer.
It can also help preserve muscle mass. In a 2019 study, researchers found that moderate to vigorous intensity exercise is a strong part of aiding muscle function in older adults.
So, what can you do to live a more active lifestyle?
Before participating in activities, it’s important to gauge where your fitness levels are. It’s best to start off slow and work your way up to longer and more intense exercise as you adjust and get comfortable.
Some common forms of exercise include:
- Playing sports
- Light to moderate weight lifting
We recommend you find something you enjoy. That way it’s easier to stick with it!
Diet can play a huge role in how we feel and function.
It has a direct influence on health and well-being in many ways. From bodyweight to the prevention of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
It’s best to avoid empty-calorie foods like baked goods, soda, and alcohol. Empty calories may provide immediate energy, but it’s often short-lasting. They offer no nutritional benefits and they don’t build muscle, supply vitamins, or promote the sense of fullness needed to keep energy levels well balanced throughout the day.
It's also best to stay away from trans fats. Trans-fats can lower “good” cholesterol and increase “bad” cholesterol, and they also increase the risk of certain diseases.
For most adults, a healthy diet includes:
- Healthy fats - Health experts recommend monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) versus bad fats like trans fats. These types of fats lower the risk of certain conditions.
- Complex carbs - this form of carbohydrates digests slower and supplies a long and steady release of glucose (energy) into the bloodstream. This prevents energy crashes and creates longer-lasting energy. Complex carbs also provide more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are important nutrients in the healthy functioning of the body.
- Good amounts of protein - every cell in the body contains protein. Protein helps repair and build bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. It also plays a role in regulating hormones and it can aid in digestion.
Some sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, chia seeds, fatty fish, and nut butters.
Complex carbs come from foods like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, beans, peas, and even certain vegetables.
Most meat contains protein, but it’s ideal to eat lean sources of meat such as poultry and fish. This prevents the ingestion of bad fats that come from meats like beef and pork.
Protein is also found in non-animal foods like lentils, quinoa, beans, and more.
Getting enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle. It allows the body and mind to recharge. In return, this leads to better energy levels, more clarity, and focus.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, memory, and cognitive function.
In one study of adults over the age of 65, adults who had a poor quality of sleep had a harder time concentrating and problem-solving than those who had a good quality of sleep. In another study that looked at data from close to 8000 people, researchers found that those in their 50s and 60s that had 6 hours of sleep or less were more at risk of developing dementia.
Getting a good amount of sleep is also associated with a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and lower rates of insulin resistance.
But how can you get a better night's sleep?
There are several things you can do to get good sleep. Some of which include:
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding caffeine close to bedtime
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Not taking naps later in the day and evening
Finding ways to relax and unwind before bed is also a great way to promote sleep. You can try reading, taking a warm bath, or even mindfulness meditation. One study found that mindfulness awareness practices like meditation actually improved sleep quality.
Avoiding unhealthy habits
Certain habits can be harmful to your health and wellness. A few habits you should consider avoiding to encourage a healthy lifestyle include:
- Smoking - quitting smoking can lower the risk of certain diseases, improve circulation, and improve your ability to exercise.
- Alcohol and other substances - excessive alcohol use can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It may also weaken the immune system and increase the odds of getting sick.
Mental health plays a big role in health and quality of life. Learning to manage stress and depression, and practicing self-care is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Different aspects you should be aware of include:
- Social isolation and loneliness - it’s important to maintain social connections throughout your life. Isolation and disconnect can inevitably create feelings of loneliness. Studies show that loneliness causes a higher risk of heart disease and depression in older adults. Make sure to stay in touch with family and friends through each stage in life. Scheduling time every day or every week is a great way to maintain social connections.
- Stress - according to a recent study, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels naturally increase after middle age. This increase in stress may actually cause changes in the brain. Learning to manage stress is key in minimizing its effects. You can do this by meditating, journaling, exercising, or taking part in activities you enjoy.
- Depression and mood - depression is often associated with intense feelings of sadness. But sometimes, someone might experience numbness or disinterest in activities they normally love. Depression may also increase the chances of developing dementia. In a study with over 1000 adults, researchers found a connection between the number of depressive episodes a person had and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Depression can be serious, but it's treatable. As soon as you notice symptoms, you should visit a healthcare professional. From there you can determine the best treatment options for you.
If you think you’re in need of immediate help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by dialing 988. Or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
What is cognitive health?
Cognitive health is the ability to think clearly, remember, and learn. It can often change with age. Many older adults experience changes in thinking ability and memory.
Making small changes in daily life can help you maintain and improve cognitive health. In a study with 3000 participants, researchers found that the following 5 healthy lifestyle factors played a big role in maintaining cognitive health:
- Not smoking
- Eating a high-quality Mediterranean diet
- Not drinking large quantities of alcohol
- Engaging in mentally stimulating activities like playing games or writing.
- At least 150 minutes every week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity
Researchers found that following these lifestyle choices greatly reduced the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Those who took part in at least 4 healthy lifestyle choices, actually had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Healthy Aging Month Conclusion
Healthy Aging Month is a month dedicated to spreading awareness and educating people on the importance of maintaining health throughout the natural state of aging.
Learning the best practices to improve health as we age can help us live longer, higher-quality lives.
We hope you learned a lot from today’s article and the healthy aging tips we’ve shared. Make sure to share this around in your community, and let people know your biggest takeaway from this article!