How to age well

Looking after your health now is insurance for maintaining a good quality of life as you age. It’s insurance against the many lifestyle diseases now frequenting our society, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, as well as for conditions that tend to be more age-related, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, cognitive function, muscle wastage and dementia.

Here are our top tips for improving your chances of ageing well and maintaining your independence as you grow older.

Move

Australian guidelines recommend 30–60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day. You don’t need to do formal exercise; incidental activity that gets your heart rate going and makes you a little puffed – such as gardening, housework, dancing or walking to the shops – counts as well.

Keeping physically active reduces your risk of obesity, heart disease and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Eat well

Many of us already know that eating well can significantly help to stave off chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.

Ensuring you eat a varied diet of wholefoods from each food group – with plant-based foods making up much of what you eat – and not overeating will stand you in good stead.

As Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, says: “Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Don’t smoke

Again, another no brainer. Smoking is a risk factor for all the chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

However, if you currently smoke, it’s never too late to quit, even if it takes you a few goes to do so.

Limit the booze

I can still recall from studying pharmacy all those years ago (over 20!), the pharmacology lecturer warned us that too much booze will kill off our brain cells. I think it was to keep us students from binge drinking.

On a more serious note, there is such a thing as alcohol-related dementia. And current Australian guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks on any day, as it reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.

Be social

University of Melbourne’s Associate Professor Briony Dow, who is also director of health promotion for the National Ageing Research Institute, claims, “If you’re socially isolated, it’s equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Holy smokes! (Pun intended.)

However, social isolation can still happen when other people are around; it’s feeling connected to others that counts – as it can reduce stress hormones responsible for increasing the risk of heart disease and offer mental stimulation that’s good for the brain.

Keep your brain active

Research shows that people who do more mentally stimulating activities over the course of their lives have better brain function and a lower chance of developing dementia.

While doing crosswords and sudoku puzzles help to boost your brain, other activities such as taking up a second language, studying, reading widely or learning a musical instrument are also worthwhile.

Why not try these brain games on YourLifeChoices here and here?

Have a positive outlook

What type of person are you – glass half empty or half full? Because the answer affects your long-term health.

Research shows that optimists are more flexible in their approach to life, and that they look for solutions to problems rather than feeling despair. This lowers their risk of suffering from stress and depression. Also, upbeat people are more likely to keep physically active and eat well, as well as be grateful for what they have.

Read more at ABC Health & Wellbeing.

What do you that helps you to ‘age well’ and be happy?

Written by leshka

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