Tips to age gracefully
Look around and you will notice that some people age more gracefully than others. For instance, 60 or 65 years of age looks different on different people. To some extent, it’s unclear why certain people age more gracefully, but healthy living seems to play an important role. Health and wellness is often no accident. In reality, the major causes of chronic diseases are known, and if these risk factors were eliminated, at least 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented; over 40% of cancer would be prevented. Those who are predisposed to debilitating illness because of hereditary factors combined with environmental contributions and other unknown factors that can negatively impact aging. But, we do have substantial evidence that those who engage in physical activity tend to undertake the aging process with more “grace” where they can remain functionally independent longer, have greater quality of life, decreased physiologic changes associated with aging, and lower risk of chronic illness as compared with older individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles.
- EXERCISE HAS NUMEROUS HEALTH BENEFITS. A GRADED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EXERCISE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMON CHRONIC CONDITIONS (INCLUDING CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, DIABETES MELLITUS, CHRONIC LUNG DISEASE, CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE, AND SOME CANCERS) HAS BEEN OBSERVED.
- People in advanced age who exercise regularly are around 10 years younger in terms of motor skills than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. A 50-year-old who exercises regularly is as fit as an inactive 40-year-old.
- Those who do less than 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, as recommended by the World Health Organization are four times more likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
- Aging is natural, but there are some lifestyle and dietary changes one can make to their daily routine that may aid in graceful aging. These include the following:
- Engage in regular exercise, for example, walking 30 minutes a day.
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, nuts, and whole grains. Eat less salt, fatty meats, sugar, butter, and packaged foods. Also, eat plenty of fiber.
- Stay connected to friends and family.
- Consider taking any supplements under physician guidance, including vitamin D
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule that includes good bed hygiene, such as avoidance of alcohol or caffeine in the evening, as well as keeping the bedroom dark.
- Use sunscreen regularly to protect against photoaging. A fascinating recent study showed: The daily sunscreen group showed no detectable increase in skin aging after 4.5 years. Skin aging from baseline to the end of the trial was 24% less in the daily sunscreen group than in the discretionary sunscreen group and supplements studied were of no benefit.
- Keep your gums in good shape to avoid peritoneal disease since it is associated with heart disease and dementia.
Here are a few more tips on how to look and feel younger.
Put on a happy face
Have you heard the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it”? It applies to smiling, too. Believe it or not, the more you smile, the happier you’ll feel (not just the other way around). Smiling reduces stress and makes you feel more positive. More to the point, researchers found that people who smile are often perceived as being younger than their actual age, while people who frown appear to be older than they really are. So, turn that frown upside down and put on a happy face.
Get together with friends
Make time for friends—they’ll keep you young and healthy. I am not kidding. According to one study, having strong friendships can actually help you live longer, be healthier, and feel more youthful. In an important study, researchers found that people who had strong social connections had lower measures of obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure. So, call up your old pals—see a movie, try hiking, walking or biking with a group, go bowling, or just meet for coffee. It’s a fun way to feel young and be healthy.
Nothing says old age like leathery skin, sunspots, and wrinkles. So, slather on the sunscreen to keep your skin from looking old. But here’s the trick: Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach—wear it regularly, no matter the weather, experts advise. In a randomized trial in sunny Australia, researchers showed that middle-aged adults who applied a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily had skin that was 24% younger compared with those who wore it only when they thought they needed it. Another thing to consider: A broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen from the drug store is far less expensive than anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams from the department store.
Do I have your attention now? According to an expert on aging, having sex regularly can make you look and feel up to 7 years younger. For middle-aged adults, that means getting busy about 3 times per week. This amorous activity provides a Fountain-of-Youth effect by producing endorphins, boosting circulation, and releasing human growth hormone, which makes the skin look more elastic. Try that argument on your partner or spouse.
Get a dog
Old age is for the dogs? Yes, it certainly is. Dog owners are likely to live longer than their pet-free peers, according to the authors of a large 12-year follow-up study. Owning a dog is even better for you if you’re single, with a 33% reduced risk of mortality and 11% lower risk of heart attack compared with dog-less single people. The reasons for such reductions? Having a dog tends to increase a person’s activity level, but also increases well-being and social interaction. The dog may even have a positive influence on the owner’s bacterial microbiome, the researchers suggested. (However, the researchers couldn’t rule out that people who choose to have a dog may already be more active and in better health.)
Have a purpose in life
Having a purpose in life may help you live longer. In a study that included nearly 7,000 middle-aged and older adults, those with the strongest sense of purpose in life had a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who had the least sense of purpose, researchers recently reported in JAMA Network Open. People with a stronger purpose in life also had lower mortality related to heart, circulatory, and blood conditions. The researchers defined purpose in life as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals, promotes healthy behaviors, and gives meaning to life.”
Psychosocial and genetic factors contribute to successful aging, as well as longevity—although the contribution of heredity to longevity may be as high as 25%. Thus, as previously discussed, there are steps that all should consider to help us age gracefully.
The information included in my posts are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information in my posts does not create a physician-patient relationship.
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Alan V. Safdi MD, FACG
Medical Director Telluride Longevity Institute
Co-founder Emerge Healthcare Solutions, Ohio GI and Liver Institute, and Consultants for Clinical Research
Past President Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute
Served as Chairman Section of Gastroenterology at Deaconess Hospital
President Consultants for Clinical Research
Past Chairman Cincinnati Crohn’s & Colitis Medical Advisory Committee
Former Medical Director Tri-State Endoscopy Center
Served as President of the Ohio Gastroenterology Society
Lecture Nationally and Internationally on Health and Wellness
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