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Six Tips for Aging Healthy

By Sarah Ellis, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at UF/IFAS Citrus County, and Linda Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Reviewed by Linda Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

September is Healthy Aging Month! This is a great opportunity for adults over the age of 60 to focus on improving their mental, physical, social, and financial well-being. So what can you do to help making “aging healthy” a reality for you?

1. Exercise regularly

It’s never too late to get moving. Regular physical activity may prevent several age-related health conditions, like heart disease, osteoporosis, and even the ability to live independently. A recent paper in a journal on aging found that older adults who were more physically active on a daily basis were less likely to have problems with basic activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and getting around.

Specific types of exercise affect us in different ways. Strength training, either on machines at the gym or using free weights, helps to maintain muscle strength. Certain exercises can improve balance and agility, which makes life so much more enjoyable. Taking a walk (with or without a dog!) in the morning or after dinner is a great way to keep your heart and lungs healthy. Walking with a friend or family member is a good safety feature and it can keep you both motivated.

2. Get involved

How do you stay active and involved in your community? One of the things I admired most about my grandmother was her commitment to volunteering at a local soup kitchen. She loved the people and they loved her, and going there several days a week kept her active well into her eighties. That woman never seemed to focus on her own aches and pains or other life challenges (which she certainly had); she focused on helping other people, and if everyone was able to do that, there probably would be less sadness and isolation among older people. There are lots of other ways to stay involved, like taking a class, attending a senior center, or working for a local organization.

3. Think fresh for health

Prepared and processed foods are often high in fat, sodium, and added sugars. Preparing your own meals when you eat at home allows you to control the amount of these ingredients. Using herbs and spices adds flavor to foods without salt, sugar, and fat. Eat more fruits and vegetables; they are low in sodium, fat, and calories, yet high in key nutrients and fiber. Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables for the best flavor. If you prefer canned vegetables, look for “no salt added” or “reduced sodium” on the label.

4. Drink more water

The body requires an adequate water supply to function properly. Choosing water instead of sweetened drinks may help you manage your weight by reducing your daily calorie intake. Many beverages have little nutritional value and contain excessive calories and added sugars. Smarter beverage choices include water, seltzer, small amounts of 100% juice, and lowfat milk.

5. Get enough sleep

Sleep is important at any age—however, for older adults, a good night’s sleep is particularly important.  Sleep helps improve concentration and memory, allows for repair of damaged cells, and rejuvenates your immune system. Lack of sleep can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.

6. Keep your memory sharp

Some medications, lack of sleep, and depression can affect your memory, but substantial memory loss is not a normal part of aging. For your brain to stay healthy, it needs to be exercised, just like your body. To keep your brain healthy, get plenty of sleep and exercise, socialize and laugh, limit your stress, eat a healthy diet, and exercise your brain by trying something new! Research shows that involvement in hobbies, such as crossword puzzles, board games, and crafts, is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.

Age-related changes are inevitable. How you handle and grow with these changes is the key to aging healthy. Use these tips and find healthy ways to deal with challenges as they come your way.

(Photo credit: March 31 Grandmother blog image by US Department of Agriculture. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

Further Reading:

Aging: Health and Wellbeing–Many great publications on this topic are available here from UF-IFAS EDIS

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/

Hughes, T.F., Chang, C.C., VanderBilt, J., & Ganguli, M. (2010). Engagement in reading and hobbies and risk of incident dementia: the MoVIES project. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias, 25 (5), 432-8. doi: 10.1177/1533317510368399

Tak, E., Kuipera, R., Chorusa, A., & Hopman-Rock, M. (2013). Prevention of onset and progression of basic ADL disability by physical activity in community dwelling older adults: A meta-analysis. Ageing Research Reviews, 12, 329-38. 

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