Advances in medicine, lifestyle, and especially in technology have us living longer. And the big question facing most of us is not so much how long we will live but rather how well we will live as we get older.
Our planet’s population is aging and aging considerably. How well we will live as we age has a lot to do with how well we maintain our overall health. That’s why for some time now researchers have been busy studying the factors that contribute to healthy aging.
The world experienced a significant “boom” in its population at the end of World War II. It also experienced a technological revolution the likes of which had never been seen. The quality of life for most in the developed world improved dramatically, and because of all the advances made, especially in medicine, people started living much longer. With population growth rates leveling off and even decreasing over the past several decades, people over 50 now represent a greater percentage of the overall population than they have in a long time, and this pattern will continue for many years to come. Many illnesses are more likely to surface in our later years, so a big question becomes how we can maximize our chances at living both a long and healthy life.
The folks at the National Institutes of Health have some common sense suggestions based on sound research for improving your chances at living a longer, healthier life. Here are just a few important tips:
- Watch what you eat.
- Getting balanced nutrition is a big part of staying healthy. But there’s a way to go about this properly. It’s best to avoid the latest “fad” diets. Research shows that while any of the many media-hyped diet crazes might work for a time, maintaining gains and keeping undesirable weight from coming back when you stop dieting is very difficult. Healthy eating is more about making wiser food choices, imposing reasonable portion control, and getting the right balance of food and activity. Our metabolism changes as we age and so do our growth rates. We simply don’t need as many calories as we did when we were in our twenties. And because our rates of physical activity typically also decrease, it’s easy to put on stubborn extra pounds. So the sensible approach is to eat smaller portions, avoid putting as many simple sugars and starches on your plate as possible, be as active as you can, and make sure to get enough fiber from sources like fresh vegetables and fruits. Keeping our metabolism high and not overdoing it on the foods that tend to go straight to our bellies can really help reduce our chances for developing Type II Diabetes and a host of other health problems.
- Keep up the exercise.
- Some people have conditions that make getting sufficient exercise challenging, but staying active is a big factor in maintaining our overall health. Exercise helps speed up our metabolism, and it can also help improve our cardiovascular fitness and mental acuity. It helps if we’re regular about our exercise and if we get our heart rate up for at least 12 minutes at a time. Just walking at a brisk pace for 20 minutes during the day can help burn an extra hundred calories. Even better is keeping to a regular workout regimen that includes weight training or some similar activity for improving muscle to fat ratio.
- Be sure to take time to engage in pleasurable pasttimes or hobbies. Balance time spent in pleasurable social activity and time for peaceful relaxation. Keeping our stress levels low and our spirits high is a big part of maintaining our overall health. Our mental, emotional, spiritual, and psychological health all impact our physical health. We live longer when we’re happier. And we’re also happier when we’re healthier.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- As we age, we produce less melatonin, which helps us fall asleep and aids in promoting a normal sleep rhythm. So many older folks have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep. Moreover, there are many conditions (including sleep apnea, bladder problems, etc.) that can make sleeping soundly through the night difficult. But there are many things a person can do to enhance their ability to get a good night’s sleep. Making sure your sleeping environment is sufficiently comfortable and conducive to rest is one. Doing your best to establish and remain on a regular sleeping schedule is another. Avoiding eating right before retiring is yet another. (If you still have problems sleeping even after taking the practical steps, you might need to see a sleep specialist. And this is something you shouldn’t put off considering how important good rest is to maintaining health.)
We all age. And for the next several years, in most of our societies, more of us will be of an advanced age. The quality of life we’ll enjoy in later years will have a lot to do with the degree of health we’ve maintained. By heeding just a few simple caveats, we can increase our chances for aging in a healthier and happier way.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by