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The Healthy Aging Guide (And How To Do It)
ways to support healthy aging

While there’s no shame in wanting to bask in one’s youthfulness, aging is an inevitable part of life. And in order to maintain our quality of life as we get older, there are ways to support healthy aging that we can start implementing right now. 

Whether you’re caring for aging relatives or hunting for solutions to anti-aging for moms, today’s article is for you. Keep reading for some expertly recommended wellness tips to ensure you and your loved ones age gracefully.

1. Remain Physically Active

ways to support healthy aging - stay physically active

It’s no secret: exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity helps reduce your risk of chronic conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.

The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week. Some examples of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities include: 

  • Tai chi
  • Cycling 
  • Playing tennis 
  • Carrying groceries
  • Brisk walking or hiking
  • Taking dance classes
  • Doing water aerobics
  • Bodyweight exercises 
  • Gardening and yard work

But of course, there are plenty more reasons to make physical activity a part of daily life:

Exercise Bolsters Immunity

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that cyclists who exercised regularly were healthier than their non-active counterparts. Specifically, their muscle mass and strength didn’t decline as they aged, nor did their cholesterol or body fat increase. 

However, what was even more surprising was that the active cyclists’ immune systems also didn’t age. While our thymus organ (which makes immune cells known as T cells) usually begins shrinking around age 20, theirs was still making just as many T cells as that of a younger person. 

Exercise Slows the Biological Clock

A Brigham Young University exercise science professor discovered that people who engage in consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those with sedentary lifestyles. 

Telomeres, for those who don’t know, are the nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes. Essentially, they function as our biological clocks, and they’re extremely correlated with age. And after evaluating people with significantly active lifestyles, this study found that their telomere length was equivalent to about a nine-year biologic advantage. 

Exercise Keeps the Brain Young

The American Academy of Neurology tells us that people who exercise as they age experience a slower decline in thinking skills and cognitive ability. And according to their study, people who reported light to no exercise experience an accelerated cognitive decline that’s equivalent to 10 years of aging. 

The American Academy of Neurology writes: “When looking at people who had no signs of memory and thinking problems at the start of the study, researchers found that those reporting low activity levels showed a greater decline over five years compared to those with high activity levels on tests of how fast they could perform simple tasks and how many words they could remember from a list. The difference was equal to that of 10 years of aging.”

2. Prioritize Nutrition

ways to support healthy aging - eat healthy

To maintain healthy aging, it is important to prioritize wholesome nutrition. A diet composed of highly-processed foods, excess sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages poses a higher risk for health problems like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

On the flip side, studies have shown that “choosing low carbohydrate diets or diets rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, fish and unsaturated fats, containing antioxidants, potassium, and omega-3 decreased cardiovascular diseases and obesity risk, protected the brain from aging, reduced the risk of telomere shortening, and promoted an overall healthier life.”  

In addition to eating a nutritious and a well-rounded diet, prioritizing protein combats the loss of lean muscle mass. However, studies show that most adults consume less and less protein as they get older. So, if this sounds familiar, remember that seafood, dairy, fortified soy alternatives, beans, peas, and lentils are all tremendous sources of protein. Additionally, they’re chock full of essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and fiber. 

Research also suggests that our ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age. Therefore, it’s important to ensure we are consuming plenty of fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified nutritional yeasts.

And finally, prioritizing your nutrition also means that you’re drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated. Not only does our thirst sensation decline with age, but drinking ample water prevents dehydration and supports proper digestion. If this is something that you find yourself (or your loved ones) struggling with, unsweetened fruit beverages and low-fat or fat-free milk (or their fortified soy alternatives) can help you meet your fluid and nutritional needs. 

3. Ditch Unhealthy Habits

ways to support healthy aging - woman drinking orange juice

An integral part of aging gracefully is cutting out any unhealthy habits–specifically tobacco usage and alcohol abuse. Research shows that people who quit smoking significantly lower their risk of health problems like cancer, heart, and lung disease, and people who quit smoking decrease their risk of lung cancer by 30% to 50% after ten years.  

In addition, a comprehensive study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism determined that alcohol-dependent people show signs of premature aging in certain regions of their brains. Another study confirms that consistent, heavy drinking contributes to poor health in older adults.  

Therefore, limiting—or eliminating—your alcohol and tobacco consumption is a great way to support your health and prevent premature aging. If you need help doing so, Empowered to Quit is a free, email-based smoking cessation program offered by the American Cancer Society. Of course, you could also reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional.

4. Support Your Mental Health

ways to support healthy aging - group of friends

Mental health is an essential component of your overall well-being. Therefore, learning how to manage social isolation, depression, stress, and mindset through medical and self-care habits is another vital component of healthy aging.

Maintain Your Social Circles

As you can probably imagine, our risk of becoming socially isolated and/or lonely increases as we get older. And those feelings are linked to a higher risk of depression, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Therefore, maintaining your social networks and interactions is key to supporting your mental well-being.

While the size of your social community depends entirely on your personality and circumstances, we recommend finding at least a few people with whom you can deeply connect with. If you aren’t sure where to start, try volunteering at a meaningful organization or mentoring someone in something you’re skilled in. Not only will these provide opportunities to meet new people, but they encourage you to partake in something greater than yourself.

Minimize Stress

Stress is an inescapable component of the world we live in. However, research shows that constant stress actually alters the brain, affects our memory ability, and increases the risk of developing chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Similarly, this analysis of data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging revealed that emotionally stable individuals lived an average of three years longer than their negative and agitated counterparts. 

Older adults are at a particularly high risk of experiencing stress-related problems, as studies show that the cortisol levels (aka our stress hormone) increase over time. And because stress and anxiety rewire the brain in ways that impact memory, decision-making, and overall mood, this becomes especially worrisome. 

To ensure your brain continues to function in tip-top shape, it’s important to find ways to manage our stressors now – whether that be exercising, meditating, walking through nature, unplugging for a day, speaking with a therapist, or something else entirely. 

Manage Depression

Depression is a common occurrence in older adults. And although it can be difficult to recognize, it strongly impacts both physical and mental health. This review article summarizes hundreds of global studies showcasing how depression increases the risk of heart disease and other metabolic disorders. Additionally, this study demonstrates the positive correlation between the number of depressive episodes and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, and this 2020 study connects positive mood to better cognitive control. 

Researchers are also starting to determine that the way we think about aging makes a difference. While negative beliefs surrounding aging can increase undesirable outcomes like Alzehimer’s disease biomarkers and cellular aging, maintaining a positive mindset decreases the risk of developing dementia and obesity

Because depression is a treatable disease, it’s important to see a health professional whenever symptoms arise. In addition to prolonged feelings of sadness or numbness, a lack of sleep and a loss of appetite are two things to watch for. 

5. Get Regular Check-Ups

Woman talking to doctor

One of the key ways to support healthy aging is to get routine check-ups and preventative medical services. According to a 2021 study, regular check-ups help doctors catch chronic diseases early. Additionally, they help patients minimize common disease risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Thanks to recent technology — including laboratory, imaging, and similar biological tests — doctors are able to detect harmful changes in our body’s cells and molecules long before symptoms arise. And as you can probably guess, early detection of those changes vastly increases the odds of successful health outcomes. 

So, what does that mean for moms? Well, we recommend visiting the doctor annually (or more, depending on your health), as you can’t reap the benefits of early detection without regular screenings and detection. If you only visit the doctor after your symptoms begin, you miss the opportunity to catch your disease in its earliest stages, which is when it’s most treatable.

6. Get Enough Sleep

ways to support healthy aging - woman taking nap

Sleep isn’t merely a reward at the end of a long day – it’s one of the best ways to support healthy aging! Getting enough sleep (which is seven to nine hours per night) keeps us healthy and alert, and our sleep quality largely impacts our mood and memory. 

One study found that adults with poor sleep quality have greater difficulty problem-solving and concentrating than their well-rested counterparts. And another study revealed that middle-aged adults (in their 50s and 60s) who got six hours or less of sleep per night were at higher risk of developing dementia later on. This happens because inadequate sleep causes a buildup of beta-amyloid, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease. 

On the other hand, good sleep is associated with lower rates of insulin resistance, heart disease, and obesity, and it improves one’s creativity and decision-making skills, as well as boost blood sugar levels

The Bottom Line

While aging is a natural and beautiful part of life, there are plenty of measures we can take to ensure ourselves and our loved ones age gracefully. If we make a conscious effort to look after our physical and mental health, ditch any unhealthy habits, prioritize sleep, and make regular visits to the doctor, we can rest assured that our aging experience will be a healthy one. 

Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate.