Every day we age. But we don’t have to sit back and let it happen. According to research conducted by the MacArthur Foundation Consortium on Successful Aging, genetics account for 30 percent of aging characteristics while lifestyle and environmental factors account for 70 percent. In addition, a recent report in Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives Journals, attributes four simple lifestyle factors – exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and never smoking – to dramatically reducing the risk of chronic disease and early death.
But we don’t have to accept our fate. Regardless of age, with simple everyday changes to our eating and exercise habits we can change our landscape permanently and restore lost vitality, maintain optimal health, offset disease and add years to our lives. Our fate is in our hands.
In honor of September’s National Healthy Aging Month, I am offering healthy aging tips for regaining and maintaining optimal health and vigor today AND tomorrow.
1. Get your daily dose of sun. Recent studies indicate that 15 minutes in the sun’s ultraviolet rays a few times a week (without suntan lotion) offers a healthy a dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is proven to help offset osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and more. In addition, we can supplement with 2000-4000 IU a day of Vitamin D3.
2. Eat fewer processed foods. Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state. Most contain chemical additives and have been stripped of essential nutrients. Read labels and avoid foods with hydrogenated oils or trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, highly refined carbohydrates and added salt. Processed foods have been implicated in many diseases and health conditions.
3. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet: In multiple studies, a Mediterranean-style diet emphasizing more fruits and vegetables and consisting of a 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent high quality protein, and 30 percent healthy fat ratio has consistently been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and premature death.
4. Use your brain. Whether your preference is crossword puzzles or a good game of Scrabble keep your brain active. Studies show that cognitively active individuals are significantly less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Exercise. Physically active people have cells that look younger than those of inactive people. In addition, studies show that physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases, and may extend longevity.
6. Lift those weights. When we reach middle age we start to lose muscle mass. Strength training can offset that loss and help prevent osteoporosis.
7. Chill out. Research has shown that a positive attitude can add years to your life. Optimism can increases a person’s will to live, make them more resilient to illness and make them proactive about health.
8. Press your snooze button. Sleep helps to revive the body and the mind. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases risk for developing memory loss, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Sleep also encourages a positive mood, healthy weight and better skin elasticity.