Five Ways to Age Well
The idea of aging can be a stressful one. Getting older inevitably means change, and adapting to change can be difficult, especially when those changes have big impacts on us. Perhaps our children move away, or we lose our parents. Perhaps an injury or health event means we lose some of our independence. While feeling those losses is natural, there are several things you can do to mitigate the effects of aging. Here are five ways to age more healthfully.
Break a sweat
Exercise is a well-proven factor in aging well and maintaining good health. Even if you’re starting a routine later in life, any amount of activity can be good for your body and your mind. A recent study from the American Academy of Neurology showed that older people who regularly walk, garden, swim, or dance may have bigger brains than their inactive counterparts. The study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure the brains of people with a range of activity levels, from those who were inactive to those who were very active. The scans showed less active people had smaller brain volume, which can lead to dementia and cognitive decline.
Nutrition is another very important part of staying healthy. Mediterranean-style diets—a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish and low in red meat and saturated fats—have been a popular health strategy among seniors for years. Mediterranean diets have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s
Grab some ZZZZs
March is National Sleep Awareness Month, and at any age, good sleep is vital for mental and physical well-being. Poor sleep or irregular sleep patterns can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and other health issues. But what can you do to get restful sleep? Dr. Margaret O’Connor, PhD, ABPP offers some tips to help get you started:
- Don’t spend too much time awake in bed, and try to sleep only when you’re sleepy.
- Get into a ritualized routine—whatever that means for you. Some people enjoy a bath before bed. Others may spend an hour or two quietly reading. Something calming and quiet will help your mind prepare for sleep.
- Try to limit daytime naps, or avoid them all together. If you need to nap, Dr. Connor
recommends sleeping for no more than one hour, and ideally before 3:00pm.
Stay socially active
Keeping engaged with others decreases your risk for cognitive impairments such as dementia. A recent study from Rush University Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease in late life than those who regularly socialize. You’re also less likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression. While you may be curtailing getting together with others due to the COVID-19 situation, socializing doesn’t need to be a big hoopla—simply talking to a loved one on the phone is enough to keep your mind sharp, happy, and less stressed.
Practice mindful meditation
Mindful meditation is being aware of our current thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment through a gentle lens. It can have health and mental benefits including:
- Lower stress levels
- Better memory
- Improved focus
- Increased immune functioning
- Improved emotional reactions
The best part is that mindful meditation can mean something different for each person. It can be done in many ways, so long as you’re living in and focusing on the present moment. Activities like meditation, yoga, tai chi, and even coloring are great ways to be mindful.
Charlesgate has Service Coordinators at each of our communities who can assist residents in achieving many of these goals. We look forward to helping you age well.