For women, in particular, blowing out the candles on your 40th or 50th birthday are milestones that can stop and make you think. Yes, for men they can be big milestones too, but they don’t have the same changes that women go through.
If you’re looking at how to maintain good health in old age, evidence has been conclusive about the positive effects of three essential ingredients. These include exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep. The benefits for the physical body as well as your mental health are unrefutable.
Aging gracefully is something we can all do with a little bit of focus and intention. So, between the hormones changing in our bodies, the slowing metabolism (thanks father time), the loss of muscle and normal aches and pains, there are things we can do to ease this transition.
Changes You Can Anticipate With Age
Weaker Bones in Older Adults
Our bones have their highest density in our 20’s. As we age our bones become a bit more fragile. They can become a little more brittle, making us more susceptible to breaks, especially with trips and falls.
Osteoporosis can be tricky because there are no symptoms of this. A person doesn’t realize it until they’ve taken a tumble and their first fracture occurs. Obviously, as we age our recovery or healing times take a bit longer, so any preventative measures we can do will pay dividends. Research shows 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporosis to some degree.
Tips: Ensure you’re getting plenty of calcium in your diet. Genetics are different for everybody, but studies show that getting 1,000 to 2,000 mg of calcium a day can help with bone density. If you can get these from daily food intake. If need be, you can use a supplement, but food will always be a better avenue for adding calcium.
Get plenty of vitamin D. Vitamin D is what helps your body absorb calcium, so they really work in conjunction with each other. Calcium and vitamin D together can build stronger bones in women after menopause. Studies also show it also helps with other disorders that cause weak bones, like rickets.
Stay active. Bone is living tissue, so it strengthens as it’s used. Staying active will help “exercise” those bones and keep them healthy. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best for your bones.
Aging Adults and Weight Gain
As we get older our metabolism slows down. When our metabolism slows down we burn fewer calories and these calories can be stored as body fat. The growing obesity epidemic seems to be highest for those between the ages of 40-59. After 60 the weight gain seems to halt. Menopause kicks in between 45-55 and the estrogen levels drop, which can cause additional body fat storage.
Don’t feel alone, men lose testosterone at about 1-2% a year starting in their 40’s. So, what should you do to prevent or slow this process?
Tips: Be active. Regular exercise is like a wonder drug, without the side-effects. Daily exercise (preferably about 45 minutes of moderate-intensity) is great for your physical well-being and mental health.
A regular exercise schedule may prevent or even provide relief from many common chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and arthritis. And those are just some of the physical effects.
For the brain, exercise is linked to decrease stress levels, increased energy, increased confidence, increased self-esteem, better sleep, and a variety of other benefits. Again, think of all the pills people take for these “ailments.” Switch to daily exercise and feel the benefits.
Growing Old With Aches & Pains
As we get older our muscles get shorter and tighter. Additionally, the cartilage in your body has/is being used up. Both of these cause the aches and pains in your body. But this doesn’t mean we’re going to be bed-ridden as we age. Stretching and exercise are great things you can do to help alleviate these aches and pains associated with aging.
Tips: To keep your muscles as limber as possible, stretch frequently. Yoga is a great exercise that helps with keeping the body limber. Yoga can help with flexibility, strength, without putting added stress on your joints.
Even doing minimal stretches while sitting at your desk, or in front of your tv can help. You might need to up your cardio and resistance training too. As I discussed earlier, our metabolism slows down, making it easier to pack on a few extra pounds. If you’ve slowly added 10, 20, 30 pounds, or more, this will take a toll on your joints.
Cardiovascular training, resistance training, along with a healthy diet is the best way to take care of that problem. Speaking to age-related back pain, in particular, it’s important to work on your core muscles. These consist, but not limited to your abs, obliques (your sides) and back muscles.
If you find yourself scaling back on impact exercise and still getting sore or stiff, over the counter medications can also work. Obviously, check with our doctor for medical advice.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as we get older, we start to forget some things. You might also find it’s difficult to keep organized, stay focused, or put your thoughts into words. There are a variety of mental functions that seem to be “off” but it can be caused by a wide spectrum of reasons.
Common things that cause cognitive decline include menopause, medication, lack of sleep, pregnancy, depression, and even inadequate nutrition.
Tips: Well, just don’t age! I’m kidding obviously. Again, you won’t be surprised that proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep are all things under your control, that you can monitor and control. The easiest thing you’ll be able to relate to is if you eat a big (usually unhealthy meal) you feel like laying down and doing nothing (physically or mentally).
A big Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind. This isn’t to say, don’t participate, but over-indulging in foods high in salt, sugar, fat, or preservatives can influence how you feel, and how you think.
Sleep is another one we can all relate to. If you’ve ever had a restless night’s sleep, you’ve felt the sluggishness that usually accompanies it the following day. Maintaining a regular sleeping schedule will help with insomnia and other sleep-related frustrations.
Try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is when the body fixes and repairs itself. If you short yourself this time, the body can’t repair itself, nor will it be ready to work the following day. Make sleep a priority.
How To Maintain Your Health With Age
There are other things we can do (along with the aforementioned items) to age gracefully. See below for additional tips and tricks.
Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your digestive system in good working condition, promotes cardiovascular health, keeps the body temperature regulated, helps the muscles and joints working better. Overall, hydration just makes the body function better, inside and out.
Control Portions for Aging Adults
As aging adults, we don’t run around on the playground and play sports as we did in our youth. Therefore we don’t burn as many calories as we used to. For this reason, it’s best to pay attention to how much food you’re putting into your body. Portion control is something that’s completely in your control and watching how much you eat might be the difference between consuming 2,000 and 2.500 calories.
Nearly 1/3 of older adults live alone. Social isolation can take a toll on people, especially those of you that are extroverted. Try to schedule regular meet-ups with friends and family. If you can, volunteer at an organization that connects to you. Loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress. Touch base with others that might feel lonely or isolated.
Skin Care in Aging Adults
The skincare industry is a multi-billion dollar money-maker. There are things we can do to help with maintaining our youthful looks without paying hundreds of dollars for miracle serums. Alcohol and smoking will have a tremendous influence on how we age. Not only with our skin, but our bodies overall.
Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Use sunscreen and get limited sun.
I know, on a nice sunny day it’s hard to stay out of the sun. All I’m saying is don’t lay in a chair for hours and expect to have flawless skin for the rest of your life. Use lotion daily. There are a ton of moisturizers you can get for dirt cheap. I personally like to use them right after a shower, and then maybe once or twice throughout the day.
If you can find one with sunblock, even better.
The effects of stress and the triggers of stress are different for aging adults. When we’re younger, stress was usually work-related, a disgruntled child, and spouse issues. Stressors that tend to affect seniors can be the loss of a loved one; too much unstructured time on your hands; a change in relationships with children; or a loss of physical abilities, such as vision, hearing, balance, or mobility.
Since stress can cause elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiovascular issues, these effects can trigger underlying medical issues. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise is also important, as is nurturing yourself by pursuing activities that bring you joy, and making time to socialize.
Meditation is another great way to keep stress levels down or at least controlled.
Conclusion of How to Stay Fit & Healthy
Aging well is dependent on how well you take care of your physical body and mental health. Practicing healthy habits throughout your life is important. It’s never too late to start, and even short little adjustments can add up. Start with something easy, like drinking the daily recommend amount of water.
Then try something like sticking to a sleeping schedule. By adding these little healthy tidbits, you’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment, and as humans, we feed off our accomplishments. Get out there and make it a great day!
What is your best tip for aging gracefully? Leave a comment below.