Did you know that 60 years ago an American who made it to age 65 could expect to live an additional 14 years, but today it is 19 years more? So, given that many of us will live to at least 85 or older, my goal is to help people, not so much to live longer, but to live better and healthier during those extra years. That’s why I chose the tag line to my business as
“helping you make the rest of your life the best of your life.”
I recently read a survey done by Consumer Reports of 2,066 Americans age 50 and older. The survey showed that most of us in that age group want to maintain our quality of life as long as possible. Our goals are similar: to remain independent, to keep mentally sharp and to stay as active as possible according to Fernando Torres-Gil, PhD, director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging.
I don’t believe it’s ever too late or too early to start planning and implementing ways to have successful and healthful aging. Frankly, there are many studies, books and articles that give tips on how to have a long and healthy life. Too many tips to include here. In fact, it would fill a large book and it has.
In a newly released book by Robert A. Levine, MD, Aging Wisely, Dr. Levine states that everyone ages but not everyone ages well. He explains that much of what happens to our minds and bodies as we grow older depends on our approach to life and our attitudes and feelings about ourselves. We know that there are many things in life that are beyond our control, but we can take advantage of those things that we can control. He beautifully says that to age successfully, we must find satisfaction and pleasure in what we do in the time available to us. He states something that I already believe wholeheartedly or I wouldn’t be doing what I do and that is that maintaining a good attitude is a key element to aging well. Aside from illnesses and random events, we are in control of our lives. In his book, he gives many real stores of how older people have dealt with getting older in a positive way.
So the good news is it doesn’t matter whether you’re 30 or you’ve just hit 50 and part of the baby boomer generation or are well on your way towards 85, there are things that can help you get and stay healthy, keep you socially and intellectually engaged in the world around you and create a life that you love.
1. Manage your health
Managing your health encompasses a lot of things from eating a healthy diet to having a great primary care doctor that you visit regularly.
Our bodies and what we fuel them with are continually changing. What worked in your 20s, 30s and 40s might not work today. I know that I can’t eat as much or some of the same things as I did 20 years ago. Eat organic whenever possible. Cut-out processed and refined so-called “food.” Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. On our journey to living the healthiest life possible, free of disease and excess weight, we often overlook a critical missing piece to the health and wellness puzzle and that is environmental toxins. Environmental toxins are substances that can cause or contribute to disease within our bodies. They can be found in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the products we use and in the air we breathe.
A great primary care doctor is vital as we get older. This physician should be a main point of contact in our ever complex health care system. If you don’t already have one, look for one who is a “patient-centered medical home.” That means the doctor’s office has organized itself to manage all of your care, including alerting you when it’s time for tests or visits, managing your medications and coordinating care with specialists so everyone is on the same page.
2. Keep your body strong
One of the ongoing effects of aging is loss of muscle mass. If you don’t do anything to fight it, you could find yourself unable to get out of your chair one day. Within the past year, I started working with a trainer two days a week. I want to be strong and flexible as I age.
Here are some concrete steps you can take, based on recommendations from experts at the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine.
You should strength train on two or three nonconsecutive days each week. Strength training creates leaner muscles and stokes metabolism for more calorie burn. You’ll also help combat osteoporosis, boost endorphins that increase energy, improve sex drive and ease depression. Body-weight resistance training is equally effective, so if you can’t get to the gym, do some push-ups, squats, lunges and dips. . If you have problems with your joints or bones, consult a certified trainer or physical therapist before starting a program.
A fitness plan that maintains strength, flexibility, and balance is vital.
One of the simplest exercises you can do on your own to improve your balance is to practice standing on one leg. Also consider yoga, Pilates and tai chi, all of which helps improve balance.
Walking, gardening, dancing and romancing all count toward staying fit and healthy both mentally and physically.
3. Stay mentally sharp
I have read many surveys where those surveyed said that losing their cognitive abilities was their No. 1 fear about aging. Nothing you do will protect you 100 percent from developing dementia, but there are ways to reduce your risk:
Remain physically fit by following the fitness advice in the previous section. Staying physically active has been shown to decrease the risk of cognitive decline.
Other surveys have found that our social lives start to dwindle as we get older. Keep in contact with family and friends and expand your social circle by volunteering, attending local cultural events and taking continuing-education classes.
Stay mentally fit by learning something new. Crossword puzzles aren’t enough, especially if you’ve been doing them for years. The key to brain fitness is to establish new neural connections by taking on fresh mental challenges.
4. Stay away from negative people
If you have friends who often complain about everything in life, it is highly recommended that you drop them or maintain your distance from them. Negative people do not look at life in a positive way; hanging around with them will not only depress you, but also prevent you from moving forward in life. Staying away from negative friends and being in the company of happy, energetic and positive people, regardless of their age, can go a long way in helping you stay happier at all times.
Interaction is essential to remain alert, connected and relevant. As Barbra Streisand sang, people really do need other people. Conversation and contact make a difference. It’s what keeps us alive. If you are alone, reach out to participate in local organizations or volunteer your time. These are excellent ways to get in touch with other people and stay young at heart. Hugging, talking and interacting keep your mind active and makes your spirit soar.
5. Have a purpose in life
Victor J. Strecher, director of innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health recently spoke at the Positive Aging Conference in Florida. He told how he lost his sense of purpose in life after losing his 19-year-old daughter to a rare heart disease. He then presented evidence on the positive influence of purpose on our health and longevity.
• Increase in longevity. Meditation that includes purpose in life affects telomeres, the tip of chromosomes that keeps the DNA from unraveling. It’s similar to the metal aglet at the end of a shoelace, which prevents it from fraying. Longer telomeres affect cell division that in turn affects aging. Strecher noted that purpose adds to telomere repair, which increases longevity.
• Decrease in heart attacks. In a two-year study of older adults with coronary heart disease, those who had a purpose in life were less likely to have a heart attack.
• Decrease in strokes. In adults 50 and older, researchers conclude that purpose in life was associated with a reduced incidence of stroke among a sample of 6,000 people.
• Decrease in likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. In testing more than 900 people, researchers found that those with a high score on a purpose of life measure were about 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those with a low score.
My passion is helping people make the rest of their life the best of their life. I can help you through these challenges with Life Coaching for those at mid-life and beyond and with cutting-edge nutritional products geared towards health and wellness issues. Contact me for a 1-hour Complementary Consultation.
“You need to get a life that will last a lifetime.”
~Chris Crowley, Younger Next Year