September is Healthy Aging Month and at Comfort Health we know how important it is to stay active and in good health as we enter our golden years. While we can't do much about our genetics or our luck, there is a good deal we can do to keep ourselves feeling fit and fantastic as we grow older. Here are some of the best ways to ensure you age with health and happiness in mind!
1. Keep Moving: Staying fit is key to a long life. Studies confirm that getting our steps in makes a huge difference in our overall health. Current guidelines recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, running, swimming, biking) or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity if you are already active or a combination if you are already active. It's important to mix in even light activity and keep moving every hour, don't spend too much time sitting or lying down. Mixing in strength training exercises a couple of times a week is highly recommended for bone density and yoga, or similar exercise helps with balance and flexibility. This is beneficial as you age and are more likely to fall, making yoga wonderful for staying grounded and mindful.
2. Healthy Eating Habits: Although we shouldn't deny ourselves the occasional treat, our health does benefit from a well-balanced diet that is heavy on fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Maintaining a good diet helps protect us against chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, and improves our mood and mental health as well. For people who are older, it can make a huge difference in how we recover from health setbacks or an accident.
3. Get a Good Night's Sleep: We often think of lack of sleep as a badge of honor and boast about how little we need to function. However, sleep is a huge factor in how we look and feel throughout the day and determines our health outcomes as well. Persons over 18 should get 8 hours of good sleep which means turning off the media for some quiet time before bed, creating a calm and restful bedroom, and allowing our bodies and minds to recover from the day. Getting enough sleep has been proven to reduce stress and depression, ease inflammation, and help improve focus and concentration. A great side benefit to a good night's sleep is looking fresher and younger, too!
4. Regular Check Ups: Seeing your doctor and dentist regularly improves your chances of living a long and healthy life. By taking care of any issues before they become bigger problems you can manage your health with less drastic measures. Oral health can affect other physical conditions and your routine checkups will keep you updated on vaccines, screenings, and blood pressure checks. We know that anything you can catch early at your regular doctor appointments will have a greater outcome in treatment.
5. Find A Sense of Purpose: In Japan there is a word for finding your purpose: Ikgai. This translates to "reason for being" and it is your life purpose, or to put simply: the reason to get out of bed every morning. We all need to find a sense of purpose to live our best life, to find joy and meaning in our days. In places where people live past 100, these philosophies are common. Having hobbies, a fun post retirement "job", taking care of grandkids, socializing with friends, learning new skills, and embracing the day with a sense of purpose gives us a sense of belonging to this world and helps our emotional, mental and physical health so that we can age with grace and remain youthful in spirit!
6. Be Kind to Your Skin: We have focused on our skin during sun safety month, but it can never be said too much – your skin is your biggest organ and it needs attention too. Be sure to slather on that SPF when outdoors, seek shade, and wear a hat to protect against those damaging rays of sunshine. It's also important to drink enough water and use gentle skin care products and moisturizers to keep your skin looking and feeling it's best. Also, don’t forget to have your doctor routinely check your skin for skin cancer which is best removed and treated early. If you look around at some of the most youthful-looking grandparents you know, genetics might have some play but a good skin care routine has likely helped them out too!
7. Maintain Friendships: Study after study confirms it: having close knit friendships is at the root of everything about our health. In one example of the research, developmental psychologist Susan Pinker’s studies in social neuroscience show a critical link between face-to-face contact and the ability to learn, find happiness, be resilient and live a long life. She explains human beings are hard-wired to connect with other human beings. William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, says that “as we get older, our friends begin to have a bigger impact on our health and well-being, even more so than family.” As we age, he notes, we are likely to “prune away” friendships that are more superficial, focusing instead on ones that are “deeper and make us happy.” Friends can keep our minds active, reassure us and help us through rough patches, get us moving as an exercise buddy, and give us that motivation to get up and seize the day, if just for a quick coffee together. Sometimes we neglect friendships and forget to nurture them as we care for kids, focus on our spouse, or even care for older parents, but it's vital that we maintain relationships with friends for healthy aging and HAPPY aging!
Of course, there are many keys to a happy and healthy life, but these guidelines and tips can help you get started or encourage you to keep at it. And don't forget, it's okay to ask for help when you do need it. We have found that health outcomes improve, and people live longer and better lives, when they reach out to get a bit more care. At Comfort Health we see folks who need a temporary nurse to help them in recovery after an illness or surgery as well as long term assistance that helps folks live longer and happier in their own homes. We can't tell you how often we hear back about how much our clients love to see their favorite Comfort staff and sharing stories with them when they check in every week. The power of social connections along with experienced medical care is another step to healthy aging!
Here's to good health, great friends and long lives!