Whether you want to live longer, or just plain better longer – in other words, to age healthily – if I told you that to eat nutritious food, be physically active most days of the week, get enough sleep, not smoke and keep alcohol consumption at moderate or inferior would help you do that, you might say, “Yes … and what other I can do?”
Before we get into that “what else”, let’s consider what “healthy aging” also means. A systematic review of research identified 10 determinants of healthy aging: physical activity, diet, self-awareness, outlook / attitude, lifelong learning, faith, social support, financial security, community engagement and independence. So it’s fair to say that healthy aging has many facets. Here are some tangible tips for living better, and perhaps longer.
Look at aging through a positive lens
Research from Yale University has found that how we view aging can affect both longevity and healthy aging. One study found that middle-aged people who have negative stereotypes about aging are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who think more positively about aging. Another study found that older adults with one of the strongest genetic risk factors for dementia were nearly half as likely to develop dementia if they had positive beliefs about aging.
Maintaining a physical activity habit can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but if you get hurt, it can derail you and make it difficult to start over. If you have a job that involves sitting at the computer for most of the day, this can create muscle imbalances, including weak core muscles, which can make exercise painful and increase the risk of injury. If you are an “older adult”, preventing falls can become a priority, so incorporating balance-building exercises and protecting muscle mass with strength or endurance exercises and adequate protein are important for staying physically independent with your body. ‘age .
Find your purpose
In his book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”, author Dan Buettner writes of the Japanese term “ikigai”, which roughly translates to “reason for being”. People who have purpose are more likely to eat healthily, stay active, receive preventative health care, and make a commitment in life. Your purpose doesn’t have to come from your job, it can also come from your life. If you need help identifying your purpose, make a list of the things that are important to you (your values), the things you really enjoy doing, and the things you are good at. What elements in common can you find between the three lists? This will help guide you on how to spend your time in order to be fulfilled and have the question answered, “Why do you get up in the morning?”
Evidence is mounting that mindfulness-based training, including mindfulness meditation, supports healthy aging. A form of mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness, or metta meditation can have particular benefits. Results from a randomized controlled trial published in 2019 found that telomeres (the protective “caps” of our chromosomes) decreased less in middle-aged adult participants who learned loving-kindness meditation, compared to participants who learned. mindfulness meditation or were in the “waiting-listed” control group. In loving-kindness meditation, you wish yourself peace, quiet, happiness and freedom from pain, then address those wishes to a benefactor, then to a friend, to a stranger, to someone you find difficult, then to all people everywhere. As a side note, this practice can be very helpful when you are feeling stressed or anxious about the state of the world.