No matter how old you are, you’re never too young to start thinking about healthy aging. Americans today have the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives than ever before. This opportunity can bring adventure, excitement, and optimism to your later years.
Integrative methods of health care, excellent nutrition, physical activity, spiritual growth, social activity, lifelong learning, leisure pursuits, second and third careers, and volunteerism are some of the important factors in making sure the second half of your life will be healthy and fulfilling. No matter how old you are right now, start incorporating these ideas for a healthier, happier future.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Healthy eating is essential to healthy aging. Good nutrition provides you with more energy, while poor nutrition contributes to fatigue. Select a diet with the proper balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals. Fats and carbohydrates are your main source of energy. Proteins are needed for the growth and repair of tissues. Fiber aids in the regulation of bowel function. Water, the main ingredient in the body, provides the proper environment for the body’s processes, which vitamins and minerals help to control and regulate.
Reduce your intake of simple sugars, eat more fiber, and drink more water. Choose organic, contamination-free foods. Eat a “rainbow diet” rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Choose lean meats in appropriate proportions, and select diverse food choices.
Nutritional well-being contributes to your health, productivity, self-sufficiency, and quality of life. Good nutritional status and personal well-being mean improved health and vitality, decreased dependency on others, fewer hospital stays, and a shorter recuperation from illness when you do experience it.
The benefits of a physically active lifestyle extend throughout the life span. Regular aerobic exercise, such as circuit training, cycling, jogging, swimming, and walking, can improve your strength and aerobic capacity, make you feel more vital and attractive, and reduce the risk of injuries.
Physical activity also improves your flexibility, balance, and endurance. It can even increase your “social network” when done in groups or with partners.
Walking is an excellent exercise. It can be done at your own pace, involves no equipment, can be done at most any time, and can be done alone or in groups. Walking strengthens muscles in your lower body, helps build new joint bone and tissue, and helps ward off or slow osteoporosis. Brisk walking can reduce brain atrophy and improve your memory.
As you age, it’s important to reduce strain and impact on joints and muscles that are not as robust as they were in your youth. Try yoga to improve body posture, promote circulation, and improve your sense of well-being. Experience qigong (pronounced “she-gong”) to enhance the flow of vital energy in your body.
Create a Strong Social Network
Your health is affected by social, economic, and behavioral factors throughout your life span. Strong social support systems and social activities are particularly important to a vibrant, healthy life. Older adults tend to need fewer formal health care services (such as hospitalization or institutionalization) when they have strong social networks of friends and family members. Older adults who continue to interact with others tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, than older adults who become socially isolated.
Take the opportunity to develop new friendships. Join a group, a club, or the gym. Volunteer at an organization whose cause you support. Work part time or develop your hobby into a second (or third) career. Get together with family members more often. Meet up with current friends for a cup of coffee. Enroll in school and take a class in a subject you’ve always been interested in but never thought you had time to pursue. Most important, take time to nurture the meaningful relationships in your life.