Ask yourself a simple question. How do I want to spend my golden years? Your answer probably didn’t consist of a nursing home or another care facility. Technology and healthcare have opened the door to age in your own home. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that we get older and with that our bodies change. Often these changes create more issues and stress to the body. Knowing how to combat these changes and how to prevent them, will make a big difference on your quality of life as you get older. In fact, 70% of all age-related diseases are associated with lifestyle choices and 30% are related to your genes, according to Dr. Henry Lodge, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. That means you have a lot of control over how you will live your golden years! So, how can you prepare to live a long and healthy life? Below are some tips and tricks to assist you in your quest to healthy golden years.
One of the keys to longevity and maintaining independence later in life is staying active. In fact, some of the leading causes of death in Americans are Stroke and Heart disease. On top of that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling is the leading cause of fetal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. The good news? These leading causes of death can be avoided or at least mitigated by staying active. The big things to focus on are improving your strength, flexibility, and your endurance.
It is never too late to start building a healthy habit of exercising, though starting as early as you can is recommended. Anything you can do is helpful and staying active doesn’t mean you have to become a marathon runner, a brisk walk at night or morning yoga can greatly improve your health. You can even start gardening, the idea is to become less sedentary, so low intensity physical activity will be beneficial. Another huge benefit of getting active is increasing your family time! Your kids or grandkids need exercise too, so getting out there and doing activities with your family can improve everyone’s health and create social bonds that are important for your longevity and the development of your children or grandchildren!
You do have to be mindful when increasing your activity to protect your joints and muscles. If these are damaged, a range of issues can occur, and this can hinder your future mobility. Do not let this turn you away from activity because in a weird twist of life, being inactive can actually increase your chances of damaging your body and increase the chances of injury. So, in starting out it is recommended to start off slow and ramp up your activity gradually as to not put too much strain on the joints and muscles. Listen to your body and do not over exert yourself. Some great products to protect your joints and muscles and mitigate pain when doing your activity are:
For an extra push, my 90-year-old grandma goes to Tai Chi at least 4 times a week. Tai Chi is a great option because it does not put a lot of stress on joints but gives similar benefits as yoga.
It is very important that you stay healthy throughout your life, developing healthy habits early on will make this a little easier but, like with activity, it is never too late to start. The section before talked about staying active but that is just one piece of the puzzle. A healthy diet with proper nutrition and management of your vices is key. Research has found that the Mediterranean diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fish is one of the most wholesome and healthy diets around. This diet has been linked to reducing mortality rates, heart disease, bad cholesterol, cancer, Parkinson’s and even Alzheimer’s disease! The diet has everything you need and is focused on unrefined and unprocessed food. It is a good idea to avoid processed foods and refined sugars, as much as possible. Research is showing refined sugars and processed foods are causing obesity, diabetes, and is even showing a link to cancer. One rule of thumb for grocery shopping is sticking to the outside isles and never going through the middle isles of the store.
Maintaining proper nutrition is important to healthy aging. As the body ages and changes, the vitamins and minerals needed do too. Vitamins and minerals are essential for our body to work properly and to stay strong. Diets like the Mediterranean diet can provide most of the needed nutrients but sometimes supplements are needed. After all, we are all busy and have very little time to focus on balancing every meal. Check out our supplements here. They are custom made to order, have higher efficacy than the brands you can find in stores and are all natural. Some of the vitamins you may need to supplement for healthy aging are Calcium, Vitamins A & D, Vitamins B6 & B12, and vitamin C, and vitamin E.
The next step to healthy living is reducing and managing your vices. Alcohol is a big vice for a lot of people and is loaded with empty calories and sugars. Reducing your alcohol intake will do wonders for weight loss and reduce your chance of developing complications. Some research has suggested that a glass of red wine is good for heart health. So, moderation is key. Smoking is another vice, but this one should be eliminated from your routine. It has been linked to serious health problems and even death. The alternatives, electronic cigarettes, have recently been found to be as harmful or worse than the original form of smoking. If you are to smoke, try to reduce the amount, it just isn’t healthy. The final vice I will talk about is one I struggle with and for lack of a better term I will use junk food. Junk food is sweets, salty snacks, fast food, and basically anything that is highly processed or has refined sugars. Reducing junk food is key in living a healthy life. However, it is okay to cheat every once in a while, but be mindful of portion sizes and how many times you cheat. It is unreasonable to completely cut out your favorite foods and sweets because they are everywhere and are just so good! So, just be aware of what you are consuming and how it is affecting you.
Life can get stressful and hectic within a blink of an eye, learning how to cope with these negative stressors will prove to be beneficial. When we allow situations to cause us anxiety, stress, anger and other negative emotions, our bodies react by releasing different hormones and raising our blood pressure. Some of these hormones that are released can cause our body harm when they are produced too much. For example, the stress hormone cortisol, has been linked to an increased risk of degenerative diseases that are associated with aging. High blood pressure has been known to cause a range of health problems, especially with the heart. So, knowing how to manage negative stimuli will reduce your risk of developing health problems and will probably allow you to live a happier life. This is a lot easier said then done, so here are a couple of suggestions:
Staying social is very important for mental health. Whether you participate in the community bingo night or get coffee with a friend every Wednesday morning, it is about the social interaction and the feeling that you belong. This is also important because you will have a support group that you can rely on. Having a group to lean on in tough times or in an emergency or being able to share good news and laughs can improve your life tremendously and, in some cases, can save it. In fact, there have been several studies that have shown social interaction has as big or more of an impact on lifespan than diseases and other causes of death. In 2010, a study on mortality risks and social relationships was published, that concluded the influence of insufficient social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with the well-established risk factors for mortality, such as smoking and obesity.
Having a social life can benefit your physical health, too. It is so much easier to be active if you have a buddy to do it with. Also, participating in social activities will reduce the amount of time you are sedentary. A social life will provide you with both mental and physical benefits that will make a big difference in your quality of life. What could be better than knocking two birds with one stone? The countless enjoyable memories made with your family and friends might do it!
Last but certainly not least, in order to live a long, healthy life it is important that you stay informed. Staying informed means that you keep up with changes to your insurance and healthcare provider, you know your numbers, and that you know your family history. Early detection and treatment of risk factors can save your life.
Your family’s health history is really important to know because it identifies what you are at risk of developing. Once you know what you are at risk for, you can start to take steps to minimize the risk and will increase your chances of early detection. For example, knowing you have ovarian cancer in your family you may get annual checkups, or you may have your ovaries removed. Another example is if you know your family has heart disease, you would probably not eat fried foods every day. Knowing what you could develop gives you an upper hand on the disease or complication and early detection can be the difference of life or death.
You should know your numbers, which refers to your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These numbers may be the best indicator of how you will age and are very good indicators of your overall health. Once you know your numbers you can take steps to get back and maintain healthy levels. According to Dr. Michael Roizen, the chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, you should maintain a blood pressure reading of 115/75 or lower; an overall cholesterol level of 200 or lower; and an HDL cholesterol level of 50 or higher. HDL is the kind of cholesterol that is thought to reduce the risk of coronary disease. These numbers are largely regulated by your diet and certain foods can lower or increase your numbers directly. So, it is important to know them.
Finally, you should be up to date on your healthcare. There is nothing worse than being surprised in a time of need. Keep up with your insurance, healthcare provider and other healthcare factors to ensure you won’t be surprised and so that you have time to react to changes accordingly.
As you can tell, it takes some preparation to have the opportunity to spend your golden years healthy and in your own home. Making sure you are well informed, have social interaction, can reduce negative stressors, have a healthy diet, and are staying active can greatly improve your chances. By preparing today, you are going to be safer in your home in the future. You may even save money on home modifications. Our blog next week will go over how you can live safe and more independent in your golden years. After all, home safety is more than just the safety of your home, it is also about your quality of life.
Check out our Pinterest where we have healthy recipes, meal prep ideas, exercise routines, mindfulness resources, and so much more. Click here, for materials we have put together to help you live a healthier life.