Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
What is Healthy Aging?
In its most basic sense, healthy aging means avoiding the diseases of aging. The 10 secrets of healthy aging are not just about living longer, but also living better.
It’s the essence of preventive medicine.
Healthy aging will make it much more likely that you’ll be functionally independent, productive, and physically and mentally healthy late into life.
While you don’t have a lot of control over some factors, such as genetics, there are many things you can do to slow and reverse some of the aging process.
The secrets of healthy aging are backed up by many years of published scientific research that will guide you down the path to living longer and better.
So let’s jump right in.
Get the Right Amount of Exercise
We all know that exercise has many benefits. What’s not as well known is how much exercise is recommended, as well as the type of exercise and frequency.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous cardiovascular exercise to significantly reduce the risk of disease.
Your maximum heart rate can be determined by subtracting your age from 220. If your age is 40, then your maximum heart rate is 180.
Vigorous intensity is 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. Moderate intensity is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.
Not everyone can do this much exercise starting out. Breaking it up into 10 minute segments is a great way to make it more manageable.
Follow a Diet That Promotes Healthy Aging
We’re constantly bombarded by diet advice and the latest diet fads in the media.
It’s no wonder people are confused about what to eat.
So let’s clear up the confusion. One of the 10 secrets of healthy aging is to eat like people who live in the Blue Zones.
Eating like people in the Blue Zones is essentially following the Mediterranean diet.
Valter Longo, PhD, author of The Longevity Diet, has spent decades researching aging and improving the Mediterranean diet.
Dr. Longo is the Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences and the Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California.
The Longevity Diet is a clinically tested diet program, based on decades of research, to fight disease, maintain an ideal weight, and live a longer and healthier life.
For personalized one-on-one nutritional counseling consult the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Get Adequate Sleep
Another one of the secrets of healthy aging is to not only get enough sleep, but to get quality sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation says that a third of Americans experience insomnia. It’s an epidemic problem. A third get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
Did you know that chronic insomnia can lead to heart disease, poor learning and memory, diabetes, depression, weight gain, and premature skin aging?
Insomnia also weakens your immune system by increasing levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which promote inflammation.
A weakened immune system also increases the risk of bacterial, parasitic and viral infections.
Getting a good night’s sleep (7 to 9 hours) helps you detox your brain of beta amyloid plaque, the substance found concentrated in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
When you improve your sleep quality over the long term, you’ll be happier and more productive during the day.
Beating insomnia means significantly improving your health by reducing the risk of all the health problems that go along with it.
Keep Stress Levels Down
Let’s face it – stress is a fact of life.
There are many sources of stress in our lives, but if you let stress overwhelm you, it can result in many health problems.
One of the secrets of healthy aging is to keep stress at a level where it doesn’t have an adverse effect on your health.
There are a number of options for reducing stress in your life. Taking a holistic approach will serve you well.
Consider adding self-care activities such as meditation, spending time with nature, journaling and massage as ways of managing stress in your life.
Looking for a supplement to target stress? Here are a few to look into: Adaptogens, L-Theanine, DHEA or magnesium.
Consult a healthcare professional trained in herbal and nutritional supplements to decide which one is right for you.
Maintain a Good Social Network
Another one of the 10 secrets of healthy aging that people often don’t think about is maintaining meaningful relationships.
Emotional support may be just as integral as diet and exercise in promoting healthy aging.
Meaningful relationships can help stave off depression that can result from spending a significant amount of time alone.
Even having a pet, such as a dog or cat, can be a source of emotional support.
Sources of building a social network:
- Group exercise
- Hobby groups
- Book clubs
- Dog parks
- Neighborhood groups
Having a social support network to help you through the tough times will go a long way.
Keep Your Brain Active and Challenged
You already know that one of the most insidious effects of aging is a decline in cognitive function.
It’s frustrating when you have short term memory loss, or have difficulty with problem solving and reasoning.
Almost everyone wants to improve cognitive function.
There are things you can do to improve cognitive function without drugs.
A Mayo Clinic study published in the medical journal Neurology found that people who engage in two or more mentally stimulating activities have a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment.
The participants in the Mayo Clinic study engaged in the following activities:
- Reading books
- Using a computer
- Social activities
- Craft activities
- Playing games, such as puzzles and crossword
The study also found that the more you do, the lower your risk.
Get Adequate Nutritional Support
There are now large bodies of scientific evidence to show that nutritional supplements can help slow and reverse the aging process by preventing disease.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different nutritional supplements that are available.
You have a lot of options, but the supplements are only meant to complement a healthy diet.
Dr. Michael Smith at Life Extension explains how the Supplement Pyramid can be used to develop your personalized supplement program.
Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the right combination for you.
Take Care of Your Skin
It’s the largest organ in your body, but taking care of your skin is often overlooked as one of the secrets of healthy aging.
Protect yourself from the sun. The biggest culprit when it comes to aging skin is the sun.
You increase the risk of skin cancer with excessive exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet rays damage the elastin in the skin.
Getting out in the sun everyday increases vitamin D production, but you still need to protect your skin.
Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, water resistant if you’re swimming.
Cleanse your skin properly. Regular exfoliation of your face will remove dead skin cells dirt and encourage new skin cell growth and renewal.
You should use a gentle cleanser daily before applying moisturizers or creams.
Microdermabrasion a couple times a week is a great way to remove fine lines around your eyes. Your skin will be softer and more youthful looking.
Regarding soap for cleansing your whole body, the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology recommends soap that won’t dry your skin, such as Dove, Olay or Basis.
Eat the right foods. You are what you eat, especially when it comes to taking care of your skin.
Cooking your foods at low temperatures (under 300 degrees) will lower the levels of inflammation and glycation in the skin.
Since loss of collagen is a result of aging, eating foods high in collagen, such as beef bone broth, egg whites, spirulina and sardines are a good idea.
The following foods will also support healthy, younger looking skin:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Flax seeds
- Green tea
Use a moisturizer. Since your skin tends to dry out with age, hydration is imperative.
A moisturizer that encourages collagen regeneration will have your skin singing your praises. Retinyl palmitate will promote renewal of skin cells.
Your moisturizer should have ingredients that block free radicals and enhance DNA health. Apply a moisturizer early in the day and at bedtime.
Ingredients to look for in your moisturizer are retinoids, vitamin C, hydroxy acids, CoQ10, peptides, tea extracts, grape seed extract, and niacinamide.
All of these ingredients have demonstrated some clinical effectiveness in promoting youthful skin.
You’ll be surprised at how much better your skin will look by following these guidelines.
Find Your Passion
Finding meaning and purpose in your life can be a powerful antidote to the adverse events that occur over the course of your life.
A Yale University study found that individuals who had the most positive self perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who had negative perceptions of aging.
Other researchers have found that having a purpose in life resulted in better physical and mental health outcomes.
Some examples of finding your passion may include promoting a charitable cause, finding a second career, taking up a creative hobby, or enjoying and looking forward to life’s simple pleasures.
Do Annual Blood Testing
Annual blood testing is important because it can detect a problem well in advance of symptoms, so you can correct the problem before it becomes a serious disease.
Unfortunately, the blood tests that many physicians order are insufficient for identifying the relevant disease risk markers that you need for healthy aging and longevity.
The good news is that you can manage some of your annual blood testing on your own at a very reasonable price.
Life Extension offers a wide array of blood tests.
You can purchase the blood tests online or over the phone. You will be mailed a doctor’s order to have your blood drawn at LabCorp.
When you get the test results, you should take them to your doctor to discuss them and have them added to your health records.
Achieving Healthy Aging
The 10 secrets of healthy aging are intended to provide a foundation on which to live a longer, healthier life.
As you incorporate the habits of healthy aging into your life, you’ll want to customize it to your individual needs.
Over time, your healthy aging plan should evolve as cutting-edge technology and knowledge emerge.
Living longer and better is within your grasp. Reach out and grab it.
Are you going to accept the invitation?
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