It sounds pretty simple: The key to healthy aging is living a healthier lifestyle.
Eating a healthy diet is very important while we are aging and including some physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward promoting healthy aging. Studies show that a good diet as you age reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. As you get older, you might need less energy, but you still need just as many of the nutrients daily in your food.
Supplying your body the right nutrients daily and maintaining a healthy weight can help you stay active and independent. You’ll also spend less time and money at the doctor and for prescription medicines. As we age, our metabolism slows way down, so we need fewer calories than before. Our body also needs more of certain nutrients. That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.
As we get older we want to choose the right foods to eat, so look for lean proteins, such as eggs, beans, seafood, lean meats. A variety of fruits and vegetables (the brighter in color the better). Whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta and low-fat dairy products. Choosing foods higher in fiber and low sodium/salt. Be careful of saturated fats and processed foods. Foods high in sugar or sugary drinks are not a good idea as they are also high in calories and empty calories. (calories with no nutritional value).
Vitamin D is a very important mineral we need as we age, and it plays several important roles in our body. But meeting vitamin D needs isn’t always easy especially as we age. Your kidneys play an important role in converting vitamin D to its active form but with aging, kidney function tends to decline, which results in decreased vitamin D production in our bodies. Aging also decreases vitamin D production in the skin, so being out in the sun is a great way to increase levels of vitamin D in the body, even just twenty minutes in the midday sun will go a long way. (many older adults, however, avoid the sun to stay cool).
Staying properly hydrated as we age, is very important when keeping our bodies functioning properly. But as we get older, our thirst-response system diminishes and we may not feel thirsty even as dehydration sets in and not taking in enough fluids can lead to more health problems. Some people with heart, kidney or liver disease may be more likely to become over-hydrated because their kidneys can’t excrete water normally. They may need to restrict the amount of fluids they drink and adjust their salt intake. The typical doctor will say drink six to 8 glasses of water a day.
Try to remember you also get hydration from a variety of places including fruit or vegetables, nonfat milk, even coffee or tea. Many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, berries, grapes, peaches, tomatoes and lettuce, are almost 100 percent water. Water from foods typically accounts for twenty per cent of the recommended total fluid intake.
You also can be physically active at any age and physical activity alone, even without weight loss, can improve your healthy aging. Walking, dancing and gardening count as physical activity. You just need 30 minutes a day as you age. Start slowly and build from where you are, then mix it up. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, start with as little as five minutes and then build up gradually to where you are comfortable.
Healthy aging requires about 7 to 8 hours of restful, healthful sleep each night. Unfortunately, as we age our sleep number (of hours) declines. Sleep is so important as we age. It is pretty common to not get enough sleep, and it can really affect a person’s health and quality of life. But it’s quite normal for someone to sleep a little less, and less deeply, as you age. To prevent daytime tiredness and fatigue, set a regular schedule for sleep each day, same time to bed and out each day. Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential to staying healthy and aging well.
So, eat healthily and make good food chooses, get some sun (at least 20 minutes a day). Light exercise daily (walking is a great start 30 minutes a day). Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and last, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Happy, healthy aging is for everyone!
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here. ◊