We all want to live a long and happy life. While there’s no magic formula that has cracked the code to anti-aging, there are some science-backed habits you can adopt to better your chances of staying healthy as you age. Here are five habits you can start today for long and healthy life.
1. Stay Active
There are some things that just keep proving to be good for us, and exercise is one of them. The good news is, you probably don’t have to become a marathoner to see the benefits. Some studies suggest that even light physical activity may be enough to help add longevity to our lives. Recent studies found that 30 minutes a day of activities like walking, cleaning, and running errands increased lifespans of older adults.
If you’re ready for a more challenging exercise routine, the federal guidelines for physical activity say for adults to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Or aim for an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Also, try to incorporate muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week.
2. Healthy Weight
Being within the ideal weight for your body type would be great, but studies have suggested that even small weight loss can help improve your health in pretty big ways. One study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that a 5% weight loss in obese patients resulted in significant health improvements. These improvements ranged from a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease and a decrease of fat in the liver, among other improvements.
Furthermore, setting a goal of a 5% loss is oftentimes much more attainable and sustainable than a bigger loss. This makes it a great starting goal for anyone who would like to eventually lose more.
3. Avoid processed foods
If you’re ready to begin eating better but you’re not sure where to start, avoiding processed foods is a great first step. Avoiding packaged foods will help reduce your intake of added sugar, additives, and refined carbs. Instead, reach for “whole” foods – ones without a laundry list of ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and nuts.
There are also studies that have found links between processed meats (bacon, sausage, deli meats) and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even colon cancer. This risk wasn’t found with unprocessed meat though. Researchers believe the difference to be the amounts of added sodium and preservatives in processed meats versus unprocessed.
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption
There has been much debate over whether or not alcohol is good for us. Studies have shown that alcohol can have some health benefits, like improving cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of stroke. Other studies say there’s no amount of alcohol consumption that’s considered healthy, and the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.
In general, experts now are saying that if you don’t drink, you shouldn’t start. If you do drink, limit it to a moderate amount. “Moderate” is considered one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. It’s also important to consider your own health and family history – what’s healthy for one person may not be for another.
5. Have a Strong Social Life
Areas, where people live to extreme old age across the globe (sometimes referred to as Blue Zones), may differ culturally in many ways, but they all have one thing in common – strong social ties. Whether it be family, friends, or neighbors, these cultures placed high importance on togetherness.
Furthermore, one study compared “average” middle-aged individuals with “SuperAgers” – people in their 80s who have the mental stamina of most people in their 50s or 60s. They found that SuperAgers had a significantly higher “measure of social relations” than the control group, and they put greater emphasis on positive social relationships. Conversely, higher levels of loneliness have also been linked to depression, anxiety, and stress. So, get involved in a group or club and make time for friends and family – it’ll help keep you young at heart.
Taking care of your physical is important for aging well, but it’s also as important to consider brain health.
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Ducharme, Jamie. (2019, April 19). “Want to Live Longer? Science Says to Do These 5 Things.” Retrieved from http://time.com/5543459/longevity-live-longer/
Ducharme, Jamie. (2018, November 2018). “New Physical Activity Guidelines Offer Simple Advice: Move More, Sit Less.” Retrieved from http://time.com/5450405/physical-activity-guidelines-2018/
Parker-Pope, Tara. “How to Age Well.” Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-age-well