When it comes to aging well, maybe you’ve heard that it’s all about genetics. If that were true, it would mean sitting back and passively accepting whatever hand you’ve been dealt in the genetic lottery. Wouldn’t you rather have some control over how well you age?
Thankfully, you do! Although your genes do play an important role, there are things that you can do for your body that will make a huge difference, regardless of whether or not your genes have been kind to you.
Taking care of your body is important at any age, and the sooner you start, the greater benefits you’ll enjoy. These tips will help your body stay healthy as you age.
1. Eat Well
It’s no secret that a diet that’s high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and simple carbohydrates will not do your body any favors. Instead, aim for a diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you’re including these things regularly, you may find that you just don’t have room left over for the unhealthy foods! And you’ll be significantly reducing your risk of developing life-threatening conditions related to high blood pressure and cholesterol.
One great example of an eating plan that incorporates all of these healthy habits is the Mediterranean diet. It’s based on the cooking and eating habits found in countries that border the Mediterranean sea and has been associated with better heart health and a lower risk of cancer. Some key features of this diet include:
- Cooking with healthy fats, such as olive oil or canola oil, instead of butter.
- Flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Eating mainly plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
- Limiting red meat to a few times each month and eating fish or poultry at least twice each week.
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
2. Watch Your Weight
Being overweight or obese raises your risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, some types of cancer, sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep), and osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints).
Sticking to a healthy diet will help you control your weight, as will following an appropriate exercise program. And speaking of exercise, weight maintenance is just the beginning of the benefits your body will enjoy if you take efforts to remain active.
3. Exercise Regularly
Most of us lose 20-40% of our muscle mass as we age. You can slow this loss, and even reverse it to some extent, through exercise. Exercise also improves your strength and balance, resulting in a lower risk of falling and better quality of life in general.
You should always talk to your doctor before beginning any sort of new exercise routine.
4. Get Enough Rest
Although you may find that you don’t need as much sleep as you did when you were younger, the national sleep foundation still recommends that most adults over the age of 65 should be aiming for 7-8 hours every night. You may feel the short-term effects of too little sleep if you’re feeling drowsy during the day or having trouble focusing, but the long-term effects are more serious.
Not sleeping enough has been linked with health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night or getting the sleep you need, exercise during the day might help. You may also try avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, or including milk or turkey (they both contain tryptophan which will help you sleep) as part of a bedtime snack.
Even if you’ve been a junk food junkie, a diehard couch potato, or a lifelong night owl, it’s never too late to make changes. Making better choices for your health at any age will go a long way towards keeping your body healthy and enjoying a better quality of life well into your senior years.
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