Secrets to Aging Gracefully

We all know that person who has somehow managed to defy aging.  They not only look much younger than their years, but they act, think and feel far more youthful than others of the same age.  How do they do it and what are their secrets to aging gracefully?

Each of us wants to be our best as the years go by – we all want to stay vibrant, healthy, active, and have that “young at heart” attitude.   For some they may have been blessed with great genetics.  But that’s not always the case.  For others, they have invested in themselves by adopting healthy lifestyle habits that have passed the test of time.  These same healthy habits can be adopted by you too carving a path towards living a long, healthy life.

In the list below, there is a very good chance those who have aged gracefully have practiced these habits for years.

·        Get regular checkups

Some people would rather stick their head in the sand and not know if there is something wrong.  When it comes to health, knowledge is wealth.  Know what your blood pressure number is, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, have your vitamin D status checked.  Both men and women should have annual health screenings to “catch early” if there is a problem before it turns into a much worse issue.

·        Never start smoking and avoid secondhand smoke

It’s always a bad idea to start smoking – it’s the worst thing for your health and ages a person beyond their years.  Secondhand smoke is not much better.  If you want to avoid the chance of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you must stop smoking including secondhand smoke.

·        Consume a moderate amount of calories

Calorie consumption should be based on eating to the point of feeling full but not uncomfortable full – a hunger/fullness scale can help with this.  Moderately active women need approximately 2000 calories a day and moderately active men need about 2500 calories.  If you find yourself steadily gaining or losing weight without trying, you may need to make some adjustments in your food intake.  Check this calorie table to see how many calories you should be consuming. 

·        Develop dense bones and strong muscles

If there is one thing all elderly people possess who appear years younger than they are it’s because they have attained and maintained good bone and muscle mass.  Strong bones protect us from fractures and osteoporosis.  Strong muscles have a huge impact on our daily life allowing us to carry groceries, get up from chairs easily to lifting heavy luggage.  Allowing bones and muscles to become weak and atrophy only leads to loss of balance, coordination and strength required throughout life.  Begin today a regular regimen of lifting weights, other weight bearing exercises such as jumping rope, walking or running and obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium. 

·        Include cardiovascular exercise

Maintaining bone and muscle mass are essential but also just as important is aerobic or “cardio” exercise for improving overall health.  Benefits from cardio workouts include reducing belly fat, enhancing the immune system, better sleep, reducing blood pressure, and strengthening the heart.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that everyone participate in aerobic activities such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, hiking, or swimming.  Aim for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

·        Prevent stiffening by maintaining flexibility

Flexibility is so important throughout our life.  It can improve our performance in physical activities, reduces risk of injuries, keeps our joints moving through a full range of motion, increases blood flow to muscles, relieves stress and tension, and just simple feels so good.  Practice yoga or Pilates to achieve this essential function. 

·        Learn to love plant-based foods

You don’t have to go vegan – unless you want to – but the majority of us simply need to include more plant-based foods in our diet.  Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants providing just what we need to keep us healthy.  A minimum of five servings a day is recommended – try to include at least one fruit and or veggie at each meal. 

·        Either abstain or keep alcohol in moderation

Like smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol provides no health benefits.  It can lead to a whole host of health problems from hypertension, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis in addition to increasing the likelihood of a car accident, falls and emotional turmoil.  Women should have no more than one drink a day and men no more than two drinks a day.

·        Sufficient sleep

Adequate sleep is absolutely necessary to rejuvenate and recharge ourselves.  While some people can get by on less sleep than others, the average adult needs between 7 to 8 hours each night.  If you are waking up still tired and unrefreshed, you most likely are not getting the sleep you need.  Sleep is the time when our body heals and repairs itself.  People who are sleep deficient are at a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, being overweight, depressed, a weakened immune system, and poor concentration and memory. 

If your sleep habits need help the National Sleep Foundation provides healthy sleep tips to lull you into dreamland.  

 ·        Wear sunscreen year round

No matter what time of year and even on cloudy days, sunscreen must be worn.  Our skin is our largest organ and is vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays.  As the years go by, skin that has been unprotected will show signs of aging of increased wrinkling, sun spots, and an increased chance of skin cancer. 

·        Keep adequately hydrated

Everyone has different fluid needs depending on their age, activity level, the climate they live in, and any health conditions they may have.  The advice of consuming 6 to 8 cups of fluids a day may not necessarily apply to everyone.  But should is getting the majority of our fluid by drinking water.  Water is what hydrates us best and is a necessary nutrient we have to replenish each as we don’t store or make water.  A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is the color of your urine should be a very pale yellow.