Age is just a number, not a prescription.
What do I mean by that? I mean, that age is simply the number we designate to the amount of time in years we have lived.
I’m sure you have heard of men and women in their 60s, 70s , maybe even 80s, say how they don’t feel a day over 25, or on the contrary, maybe you’ve heard a 30-year-old complaining about back pain, fatigue, a lack of mobility, and feeling way beyond their years.
Well, that’s my point.
Our age does not always reflect how we feel.
Although aging is inevitable, adopting a healthy lifestyle and habits that promote feeling your best, performing your best, and looking your best is something in your control!
In the meantime, as we continue to search for the fountain of youth…
Here are 7 practices for healthy aging you can implement NOW to promote youth and live a happier, healthier, and more optimal life…at ANY AGE!
7 Practices for Healthy Aging
Want to make the aging process as easy as possible? Than you should start adding some of these practices for healthy aging into your routine. No matter what age you start, you’ll soon begin to see the benefits.
1. Manage stress with mindfulness
Stress has been known to be the silent killer due to is ability to cause hormonal shifts, metabolic changes, and inflammation. As a result, this makes controlling it a key practice for healthy aging.
When we experience feelings of stress or a stressful event, our body responds by increasing our breathing rate blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, insulin, cortisol levels, adrenaline, inflammatory markers, and the aging processes.
One way we can begin to tackle stress is by implementing the strategy of mindfulness.
Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center defines mindfulness as the “moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
Here are some ways you can implement mindfulness in your life:
- Write down your thoughts in a journal
- Eat food slowly at a table without distraction
- Focus on your breathing
- Pay attention to your surrounding environment
- Try meditation and yoga
New Finding! A 2020 Meta-analysis published in Psychology & Health showed that meditation was positively associated with an increased telomere length, which play an important role in aging and the lifespan of our cells.
2. Prioritize sleep
As we age, not only do we experience physical changes, but changes in our sleep patterns as well.
Think we need less sleep as we age? Guess again!
According to the Sleep Foundation, “research demonstrates that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood.” The goal being between 7-9 hours of restful sleep hours per night.
Sleep does not only rejuvenate us for the following day, but adequate sleep is critical for the “consolidation of experiences and ideas. It plays a pivotal role in memory, and has been shown to enhance attention, problem solving, and creativity” according to Harvard Health.
Have trouble sleeping?
Here are 5 tips to improve your Zzz’s:
- Develop a bedtime routine
- Avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day
- Avoid large meals right before bed
- Set your bedroom temperature. Many sleep experts say that a cool room, somewhere around 65 degrees, makes for the best sleep, and research backs this notion.
- Reduce blue light exposure by using “Night mode” on electronic devices. Blue light can negatively affect sleep by suppressing melatonin secretion and increase cortisol levels.
Did you know: Approximately every hour you are on your phone at night you suppress your melatonin for 30 minutes!
3. Boost brain power with food
As we get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. For example, certain areas of the brain shrink, communication between different areas in the brain may decrease, blood flow rates decrease, and inflammation can occur.
By consuming brain boosting foods and following a nutritious diet we can not only improve our cognitive health but our overall quality of life!
Here are 6 foods to boost your brain power!
- Berries: Berries’ fiber, vitamin C, and phytochemical content have been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills as well as protect the brain from Alzheimer’s in addition to slowing the rate of cognitive decline
- Walnuts: Walnuts not only look like a brain, but they can limit free-radical production and support a strong immune system
- Avocados: Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that contribute to healthy blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain.
- Oily Fish: Oily fish like Salmon and Sardines contain omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) that can improve memory and brain function
- Whole Grains: Whole grins like brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, bran flakes, oats, and barley have been shown to improve mental alertness and brain cell activity
- Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens like Kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, and Brussels sprouts protect our cells from oxidative damage, increase cognitive function, and slow cognitive decline.
You can begin to slowly include these foods into your diet as an easy practice for healthy aging.
4. Get active
Physical activity has been shown to have positive effects on the entire body including our brain, skin, blood, muscles, bones, and joints.
More specifically, physical activity can: improve memory, increase blood flow and circulation, aid in blood sugar control, improve HDL (good) cholesterol, increase oxygen supply to cells and muscles, improve sleep, increase bone density, and contribute to better weight maintenance.
Throughout the lifespan our ability to perform certain exercises can change, but the advantage about physical activity is that there is no one size fits all approach,
All ages can benefit!
Physical activity includes, but is not limited to, cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretching, balance, and flexibility activities.
What is the Best form of Physical Activity?
My Answer: The one that you enjoy most and are going to be able to do consistently and sustainably.
Consistent physical activity over an extended period will always be better than extreme physical activity for a short period.
Here are some physical activity ideas to get you up and moving!
- Tai Chi
- Weight training
Click here for the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Recommendations for Kids and Adults
5. Moisturize your Skin
We talk about taking care of our heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, but did you know that our skin is actually our body’s largest organ?!
Our skin not only serves to protects us from external factors such as ultraviolet rays and pathogens like bacteria and viruses, but it also plays a role in temperature regulation, peripheral circulation, and vitamin D synthesis.
As we age, we lose fats and oils that keep our skin moisturized. This lack of moisture can result in itchy, dry, and cracked skin, making us more prone to inflammation.
Here are some tips on how to improve your skin moisture:
- Look for oil-based cream that’s so thick it comes in a jar, not a pump bottle
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage
- Exfoliate your skin to gently remove dead skin cell and uncover new cells
- Get a massage to increase blood flow to the skin for a healthy glow
- Drink water or eat hydrating fruits to maintain optimal hydration and to keep skin looking plump and maintain elasticity
6. Maintain hydration
Proper hydration is essential practice for healthy aging when it comes to optimal health, overall wellness, and physiological performance.
As we age our sensation of thirst diminishes, we tend to lose more water through urine, and have an overall lower total body percentage of water, putting us as higher risk for dehydration.
Our bodies need water for: body temperature regulation, nutrient metabolism and delivery, joint lubrication, organ functioning, waste removal, sleep, mood, and cognition
According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, healthy adults living in temperate climates need approximately:
15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids/day for men
11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluid/day for women
That being said, drinking water is not the only way we can increase improve our hydration status. Fruits and vegetables containing a high water content can also keep us hydrated!
Some of the highest water-containing fruits and vegetables include:
- Iceberg Lettuce
Click here for my full article on Hydration!
7. Find purpose
As we age, our lives change, from the activities and hobbies we engage in, our friendships and relationships, to our careers.
These changes, which previously gave purpose to our lives, may cause us to feel a sense of loss or loneliness, but the ability to change our mindset during those times is critical to successful aging and the continuation of a full and meaningful life.
You know the saying, out with the old and in with the new, well that’s definitely a mindset you can take on now.
Aging does not have to mean that we stop learning, growing, and moving forward.
Here are some great ways to stay social, engaged in your community, and develop a new sense of purpose:
- Give back by volunteering
- Join a book club
- Try new recipes
- Pick up a new hobby
- Spend time in nature
- Phone a friend
- Get creative with crafting
Incorporating Practices for Healthy Aging
Now that you know these 7 practices for healthy aging, how many can you start to include in your daily routine?
Jasmine El Nabli MS, RDN
Creating healthy eating and lifestyle habits without the right tools, skills, and knowledge is often seen as a daunting task, but that’s where I come in. I am here to show you that becoming the happiest and healthiest version of yourself can be done!
Through the combination of a whole-body approach and scientific research, I empower and educate individuals on how to implement small changes into their daily life that in turn lead to sustainable and lifelong healthy habits.