Getting older definitely has its perks. With an empty nest and most of life's most stressful events safely behind you, you've got some of your best years ahead. You get to throw out all those annoying rules imposed on you in your younger years. You get to spend more time dedicated to your favorite hobbies.
But there's one part of aging that you're probably less psyched about - the physical part. To adapt to the natural physiological changes you're likely to endure, you may need to ditch some of the less healthy habits cultivated in your youth. And to best support your natural aging process, you may have to make a few tweaks to your diet.
But some of the most impactful things you can do to ensure you live a long, healthy life are even simpler than that. Here are 20 of the top tips for healthy aging.
Don't rely on multivitamins
While taking a multivitamin certainly couldn't hurt (unless you ate way too many gummy vitamins or something), it might not be enough to give you all the nutrients you really need. Since multivitamins aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there's no guarantee that the vitamin you're taking actually contains the nutrients promised on the label. And even if they do, Harvard Medical School advises that nutrients are most potent when they come from your food. Having a diet that's low in nutrition can increase your risk of a nutrient deficiency or other disease.
Keep up with friends and family
Your social life is an important part of your health, both mentally and physically. Research shows that loneliness can actually damage to your heart health. Did you know that your mom can live longer if you hang out with her? Similarly, you can extend your own lifespan by keeping strong relationships with your loved ones.
Check in with your doctor
While there may not have been many consequences for skipping your regular checkup when you were younger, that's just not the case once you get older. Your risk for certain diseases significantly increases with age. Once you hit 40, you really need to be getting regular checkups that include colonoscopies, mammograms, checks for skin cancer and other precautionary screenings.
This may surprise you, but the most important thing you can do to prevent Alzheimer's and dementia has nothing to do with your diet and nothing to do with using your brain. Rather, some doctors say that exercising regularly is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy as you get older. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart health, too, and can act as a mood booster and help you to get better sleep.
Switch up your exercise routine
While a high-intensity interval training class might have been a daily occurrence when you were younger, your body may not be able to handle the same levels of impact and intensity with age. That's OK - and pushing through grueling workouts that hurt isn't going to make them feel any easier. Adapt your workout routine to fit the body you have now. You may need to take out the jumps from your jump squats and do a simpler version instead. You may need to alternate between running and walking so as to take some pressure off your knees. Or you may need to try a new type of workout altogether. All the benefits of exercise are still there, no matter if you're doing yoga, walking or riding your bike.
Get enough sleep
Your sleep patterns are going to naturally change as you age, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You're likely to sleep less soundly and less consistently. But don't worry, this is completely normal. Just make sure you continue to prioritize your sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect your body in a number of scary ways and, according to some studies, could even shorten your life. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, here are some bedtime routines that might help.
Drink enough water
Hydration affects more aspects of your health than you'd think, and water is essential to keeping your cells healthy as you age. Even your skin cells get most of their hydration and fullness from the water you drink. Here's how much water you really need to drink each day, according to nutritionists.
Eat lots of fiber
Before you cut carbs, there are some side effects to consider. Many sources of carbs, such as whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes and grains, contain fiber. If you don't get enough fiber, it could wreak havoc on your digestion and your cholesterol. Most women require between 25 and 30 grams of soluble fiber every day to help lower cholesterol. If you're not ingesting fiber through these sources, make sure to get fiber elsewhere in your diet.
Keep your brain sharp
Loss of brain cognition is more common than you might think. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in three seniors dies with some form of Alzheimer's or dementia. To prevent falling into that third of people who struggle with these conditions, take steps every day to keep your brain active. Reading can help improve cognitive function and prevent cognitive decline according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Other activities that may help include word games, writing and puzzles.
Practice your hobbies
Mental health is a major factor in longevity and healthful aging. One of the best ways to maintain your mental health is to spend time engaging in hobbies you enjoy. This can boost fulfillment and overall happiness, build confidence and help you to find purpose. Specific types of hobbies have their benefits, as well. Dancing, for instance, is a form of exercise that can help you maintain balance and coordination. Writing is a mental exercise that can help preserve your brain. And spending time alone has its perks, but hobbies that involve social interaction with others can help you to establish lasting relationships.
Incorporating mindfulness, practicing gratitude, taking time to yourself and exercising are all effective forms of stress management. Find a technique that works for you and incorporate it into your day-to-day. Stress, especially on a chronic level, can take its toll. There are a surprisingly large number of ways stress can affect your body, and limiting stress when possible can help you live a longer, healthier life.
If you don't smoke, give yourself a pat on the back and skip to the next slide. But if you do, there are so many reasons you should do what you can to quit. After just one day of nixing cigarettes, your risk of a heart attack begins to drop. After a year, your risk of a heart attack is cut in half. Considering all the other age-related factors that increase health risks to your heart, you don't want to add the additional strain to your system. Smoking can take its toll on your skin, teeth and other organs, too. Quitting isn't easy, but there are a number of resources out there to help support the process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of resources on the agency's website for those trying to quit, many of which are free of charge.
Spend time outside
Whether you start taking walks outside or just sit in your backyard, there are benefits to getting some fresh air. Studies have connected spending time outside with lower levels of damaging stress hormones. Students who spent time in a forest had lower levels of inflammation in another study. And research from the University of Michigan showed that exposure to nature helped to improve memory and attention span. Sunlight has even more health benefits, as well, including lowering risk of anxiety and depression.
You might have noticed that your hangovers have started to get worse - but that's not the only reason you should really consider cutting back. Drinking too much alcohol can drastically increase your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. A glass of wine here and there might not kill you, but more than that could do some damage. Alcohol is inflammatory, meaning that it can cause damage by releasing free radicals. It's also dehydrating, lacks nutritional value and disrupts your sleep. If you over-imbibe, you may see the effects on your skin and feel the effects in your energy levels every day, in addition to risking a shorter lifespan.
Manage your blood pressure
According to the American Heart Association, over 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. High blood pressure can worsen with age and result in serious health complications such as heart disease or stroke. Managing your blood pressure doesn't have to be difficult - there are a number of small diet changes you can make in order to prevent hypertension. The research is pretty clear on which foods are dangerous for your blood pressure and which foods can help keep it lower. In general, try to eat a variety of nutritious foods, try not to overdo it on sodium, include lots of fiber in your diet and limit saturated fats such as those from butter and red meat.
Make sure to eat enough calcium
Osteoporosis is more common than most people realize. The disease is especially prevalent in women, but on the whole it affects 54 million Americans, with half of all women over the age of 50 likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Ensuring that you're eating foods that can help your bones maintain their strength as you age can help, and calcium is your first line of defense against bone degeneration. If you prefer to avoid dairy, make sure to supplement your calcium sources with other foods that contain the nutrient, such as almonds, kale, broccoli and tofu.
Eat lots of healthy fats
Leave the low-fat craze in the '90s, back before people knew better. There are some unappealing consequences to cutting fats from your diet, since they do so much for your body on a daily basis. One of the things that fats are most crucial for is your brain function. In order to stay sharp as you age, make sure you eat enough of fat-filled foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Become familiar with dangerous symptoms
Sometimes, a mole is just a mole. But other times, a mole is a ticking time bomb for spreading skin cancer. Do a little research on what causes the most common cancers, symptoms of heart trouble, and other symptoms that seem small but may signal something serious. Early detection is one of the best safeguards against early death from disease. If you notice something unusual, get to a doctor immediately.
Seek out happiness
There's no wrong time to start prioritizing the things that make you happy. What helps you feel fulfilled in life? What people in your life make you smile? Seek joy in the little things every day and practice gratitude for all the good things in your life. Not only will it feel great mentally, but it will benefit your physical health, as well. Happiness has some incredible effects on your health. When you wish someone health and happiness, you're really wishing for the same thing twice under two different names.
Accept your body's changes
An underrated part of healthy aging is acceptance. Change is going to happen, and some of these changes you might not like. Attempts at erasing wrinkles, reversing aging, losing weight and looking young that are rooted in body dissatisfaction can end up doing more harm than good. Instead of resisting the natural changes that come with age, try adjusting your mindset. Think about how lucky you are to have a body that serves you and supports you every day. It can also help to know just what changes to expect. Here are some ways most bodies change after 50.
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