When it comes to counting candles on your birthday cake, there has never been a more important time to commit to staying healthy as you age. People might bemoan thinning hair or fine lines on their face that deepen into wrinkles, but nothing is more important as the years pass than keeping your body and brain in good shape.
In the United States, more than half of adults have at least one chronic disease and overall life expectancy has declined in recent years. But there are choices you can make – whatever your age or health conditions – to live a better life. Let’s look at some of the best tips for healthy aging.
U.S. life expectancy rates took a tumble in the last year, according to data released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, the average dropped by a year to 77.8 years. For men, the average life expectancy dropped to 75.1, and for women, it fell to 80.5 years. Contributing to the decrease were COVID-19 pandemic deaths, drug overdoses and chronic health conditions, analysts said. In this country, chronic health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s have had a huge impact on our population’s health. According to the CDC, six in 10 adults have been diagnosed with at least one chronic disease. Four in 10 adults struggle with two or more chronic diseases. The root causes of many of these life-threatening diseases can be traced back to just a few bad lifestyle choices or situations, health experts say:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Not enough physical activity
But there are ways to start to age in a more healthy way, even if you have a chronic condition.
Get active or stay active. Physical activity should be a priority as you age. Inactive or sedentary lifestyles are a big contributor to chronic health conditions. But this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a spin class or even join a gym. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. This could mean short daily walks with your friends or family, a bike ride or a water aerobics session. For simple strength training, keep a pair of free weights or resistance bands at home. It’s a good way to maintain your muscles.
Be social. Friends, neighbors and even acquaintances – keeping and building new relationships help us as we age. Being socially active is good for our brains and having regular conversations with people is a way to stay mentally fit.
Regular checkups. Now is not the time in your life to decide to skip your regular doctor or dentist appointments. Stick to your checkup schedule, even if you feel good. Get your flu shot and ask about age-related things like shingles shots, colon screenings and mammograms.
Feed yourself good things. Unless you are a health guru, there’s probably room for a little more healthy eating in your life. Now is the time to start making small nutritional upgrades that can add up to better health as you age. You already know the drill: More whole fruits and vegetables, drink enough water, eat more whole grains and fiber-rich foods. And don’t forget to add in a little dark chocolate. Reach for pieces that are at least 70% cacao – it makes life a little sweeter and is good for you.