Nearly everyone has met an older man or woman who seems to have a zest for life. These individuals have tapped into the secret of aging well – not just living longer, but living well for as long as possible. Living well isn’t just dependent on your bank account, either. Following any of these five strategies will help you maintain a higher level of health longer and possibly prolong your life. One study found, however, that combining all these strategies tripled your chances of healthy aging over any single strategy which gave you a 50% increase in success.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
It’s difficult to overstress the importance of maintaining a healthy diet as you age. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, balanced by lean proteins and good fats, is essential to maintaining optimal physical and emotional health.. Studies have shown that men with waists measuring over 40 inches, and women with waists over 35 inches, are at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Specifically here are foods to avoid:
- Any and all sugar – Fructose in particular creates advanced glycation end products (AGE) which are associated with many diseases in elderly people such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Cancer.
- Carbohydrates – Foods such as breads, pastries, pasta and cookies which break down into sugar in your body may directly affect the genes which govern youthfulness and longevity. See an interesting ‘TED’ talk about aging here.
Our nutritionist at A Paradise for Parents can recommend some great diets for people as they age to help with their appearance and mobility.
One excellent type of exercise you can do that has shown to help ageing at the cellular level is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This is where you do an exercise at your max ability for a short time (say 20-30 seconds) followed by a short rest period of a minute to 90 seconds or so. Then repeat the cycle anywhere from 4-8 times. You don’t have to break Olympic records, just push yourself to the max you can do.
HIIT will release Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which is essential for youthfulness, vigor and vitality. Some of the more specific benefits of HGH and HIIT include:
- Firms your skin and reduces wrinkles
- Dramatically improves muscle tone
- Lowers body fat
- Boosts your energy and sexual desire
The intensity level is totally up to the individual. Some people will receive great benefits with something as simple as fast walking followed by cooling down with slow walking. You could also use a treadmill or elliptical device, weight or resistance training, swimming, or something fun like taking a boxing workout class.
Let us introduce you to our personal trainer at A Paradise for Parents who can help you design an exercise routine that can really help.
Exercise Your Brain
While some degree of cognitive decline is natural, regularly practicing mental activities such as games, word puzzles, and problem solving activities, can challenge your brain and help you stay mentally sharp. Learning a new language, or joining a book club or discussion group, helps you practice and maintain conversation and interaction skills, while also providing mental stimulation.
One great way to help improve your cognitive ability is to listen to music. Known as the ‘Mozart Effect’, listening to music has been shown to improve mental focus and verbal fluency skills amongst adults. We really believe in the power of music, and regularly have live musicians play for our residents. We also play music in our homes at meal times to help our residents feel more comfortable.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
While many seniors find themselves sleeping less than when they were younger, this is not necessarily favorable. Sleeping well allows you to function at optimal levels during the day, whether you’re working or doing leisure activities.
Sleep helps ‘reset’ your brain so you can look at problems from different perspectives. Your brain can grow when neurons are stimulated by new events or information – a process called plasticity. Lack of sleep may inhibit genes that are essential for plasticity and so make it more difficult for your brain to keep functioning.
And don’t feel bad about taking a nap either. Tests on people who take naps showed an increase in the ability to recognize patterns in new information, plus an improvement in memory.
Reduce Stress Levels
Excess stress triggers the generation of cortisol, which takes a toll on your body and accelerates the aging process. Cortisol is a hormone associated with inflammation and abdominal fat – and is possibly linked with the development of Type 2 diabetes.
A Stanford University study showed there are five key ingredients that raise our stress levels:
- You feel like you have no control
- You don’t know how long a challenge will be (how long it will go on, what you will have to give up etc.)
- You feel you have no way out
- You think things are getting worse, not better
- You don’t have a ‘shoulder to cry on’ (you think you are all alone in solving the problem)
Practicing activities that reduce stress, such as yoga or meditation, can reduce stress. Simple actions such as journaling or spending time with family and friends can also decrease harmful stress levels. Sharing laughter with friends and loved ones can also improve your immune system and even reduce chronic pain.
Nearly everyone can follow at least one of these five tips for preventing some of the detrimental effects of growing older. The more tips you follow, the higher your chances of enjoying life at any age.