Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, LDN
You can’t stand in a checkout line without seeing at least a few magazine headlines about how to look younger, right? While dreading some wrinkles and sagging isn’t uncommon, there’s so much more to aging well.
Aging gracefully isn’t about trying to look like a 20-something — it’s about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. Like a bottle of wine, you can get better with age with the right self-care. Here are some tips to help you live your best, youthful life.
Be kind to your skin
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. If you treat it with care, it can better protect your body from the elements, regulate your body temperature, and provide sensation.
To keep it looking and functioning at its best:
- Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outside.
- Get yearly skin cancer screenings, or as needed.
- Stick to gentle products in your anti-aging skin care routine
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily to get plenty of needed vitamins and minerals like vitamin E
- Stay hydrated with water all day long.
Exercise is important
Regular exercise significantly lowers your risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, and helps you retain your mobility longer. I always say, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Exercise also lowers stress and improves sleep, skin and bone health, and mood.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 2.5 to 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise, 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two. Muscle strengthening activities of moderate intensity or greater, that involve all major muscle groups, two or more days per week. Some examples of aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, dancing, and cycling. Muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises can be performed using weights or resistance bands. Older adults should also focus on activities that include balance training in addition to aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises.
Mind your diet
Healthy foods are the way to go when it comes to aging gracefully. The Dietary Guidelines for recommends that you eat:
- fruits and vegetables, either fresh, frozen, or canned—all can fit
- lean protein, such as fish, poultry, chicken, beans, and legumes
- at least 3 oz. of whole-grain cereals, breads, rice, or pasta every day
- 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy, such as milk, yogurt or cheese that are fortified with vitamin D
- healthy fats like avocados, nuts & seeds
Avoid using solid fats for cooking and use oils instead. Stay away from processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats.
Mental health matters
Being happy and keeping your stress down goes a long way in helping you live and age well.
To keep your mood elevated:
- Spend time with friends and loved ones. Meaningful relationships and a strong social network improve mental and physical well-being and longevity. Don’t forget your furry loved ones as having a pet has been linked to lower stress and blood pressure, reduced loneliness, and better moods.
- Accept your age. There is evidence that people who maintain a positive attitude about aging live longer and may recover better from a disability. Aging is inevitable and learning to embrace it can make all the difference.
- Do things you enjoy. Taking the time to engage in activities you enjoy will only fuel your happiness. Spend time in nature, pursue a new hobby, volunteer — whatever brings you joy.
Stay physically active daily
Numerous studies have linked a sedentary life to an increased risk of chronic illness and early death. Some options to stay active are going on walks and hikes, taking vacations, and participating in group exercise classes.
Lower your stress levels
The effects of stress on your body are vast, ranging from premature aging and wrinkles to a higher risk of heart disease. There are several proven ways to relieve stress, including:
- Using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga
- getting adequate sleep
- talking to a friend
Quit smoking and decrease alcohol consumption
Smoking and alcohol have both been shown to cause premature aging and increase the risk of disease. Quitting smoking or other tobacco products, isn’t easy, but there are resources available to help you quit. Speak to a doctor about how to quit. As for alcohol, limit your intake to the recommended amount to avoid health risks. That’s one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Get enough sleep
Good sleep is important for your physical and mental health. It also plays a role in your skin’s health. The amount of sleep each night depends on your age. Adults over 18 should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep has been proven to:
- lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
- reduce stress and depression
- lower the risk of obesity
- reduce inflammation
- improve focus and concentration
Finding new hobbies
Finding new and meaningful hobbies can help you maintain a sense of purpose and keep you engaged throughout the course of your life. Evidence shows that people who engage in hobbies and leisure and social activities are happier, experience less depression, and live longer.
Mindfulness is about acceptance and living in the moment by focusing on the present. Practicing mindfulness has many proven health benefits that can help you age better, including:
- improved focus
- better memory
- lower stress
- improved emotional reaction
- relationship satisfaction
- increased immune functioning
To practice mindfulness, try activities like:
- tai chi
- coloring or reading
Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water helps keep you regular and improves your energy levels and brain function. Coincidentally, it’s also been proven to help keep skin healthier and reduce signs of aging. How much water each day depends on the following:
- your thirst
- your activity levels
- how often you urinate and move your bowels
- how much you sweat
- your gender
You can generally take your weight and divide by 2 to get the number of ounces you’ll need each day. Example: 100 pounds divided by 2 = 50 ounces each day.
Oral hygeine is important to keep a beautiful SMILE
Not taking care of your teeth not only ages your smile, but also puts you at risk for gum disease, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. Along with proper oral care, it’s important to see a dentist at least every 6 months. According to the American Dental Association, a dentist can spot signs of nutritional deficiencies, infection, cancer, and other illnesses, such as diabetes. They recommend brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and using a mouth rinse.
See a doctor for regular check ups
Seeing a doctor regularly can help the doctor find problems early or even before they start. How often you see a doctor depends on your age, lifestyle, family history, and existing conditions.
Disclaimer: Please note that this blog is not meant to substitute for medical advice. If you or someone you know suspect that you or they may have been infected by the coronavirus, please contact your health care provider.