For twenty years, September has been designated as Healthy Aging Month. This annual event focuses on the benefits of getting older, with special attention to the 70 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and more than 65 million Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), sometimes called the “middle child” generation.
With approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, this is more important than ever before.
According to projections by the Census Bureau, older adults are projected to outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history by 2034.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
According to a 2017 study by Rush University Medical Center, one serving of leafy greens per day slows cognitive decline. So be sure to say yes to that salad.
Blueberries and blackberries contain compounds that fight inflammation and help protect your brain. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a 2019 study, consuming a single cup of blueberries per day for six months can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 12 to 15%. Berries are great in yogurt for breakfast or as a dessert after dinner.
Switch your soda for green tea. Research suggests that sweetened drinks may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, whereas green tea may boost cognition.
According to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, people who engage in at least 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic exercise are 45 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Make an exercise date with a friend to motivate and challenge you to get moving.
Keeping your mind active is also critical to preventing dementia. For example, join a book club or a similar group. According to a study published in JAMA Psychology, people who engage their brains in some type of intellectual activity are 29% less likely to develop dementia.
And speaking of keeping your brain active. Try something new! Improved brain health and postponing the onset of cognitive decline are both linked to lifelong learning. Listen to new music, study a new language, sign up for a lecture, or go somewhere you’ve never been.
Get Good Sleep
Create a Good Sleep Environment
Make your bed daily, change your sheets weekly, get a new pillow every couple of years, and a new mattress every ten years. These physical items are vital to your comfort while you sleep. Keeping them in good condition and allergy free will help ensure a restful night.
Cut down on light and noise. Invest in a sleep machine or turn on soft music, a fan, or other ambient noise to limit the impact of sounds that disrupt you during the night. Turn your cell phone upside down, or off if possible, and your alarm clock towards the wall to cut down on light that can keep you from resting.
Pay Attention to Your Heart Health
In a 12-year study by the Journal of the American Heart Association, women who exercised 20 to 59 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercises weekly were 29% less likely to die than those who did none. Try adding daily resistance training for 10 minutes.
If working from home, one way to add some exercise to your life is to use what would have been your commute time to incorporate a fitness plan. You can also set a timer to remind you to get up and stretch every hour and walk while talking on the phone.
If you’re struggling with quitting smoking, try walking when the craving hits. Cutting back on smoking protects your overall health, and walking is great exercise.
Add Two Specific Foods to Your Diet
Replacing part (or all) of your butter with avocado will help reduce “bad” cholesterol levels. Sneak it into smoothies or anywhere else you can think of.
Potassium can help reduce the impact of salt on your blood pressure. So grab a bunch of bananas each time you’re at the grocery store and find creative ways to use them. Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and oranges are great additions, too!
Mind Your Oral Health
Poor oral hygiene can lead to swollen or bleeding gums, which can then cause microorganisms to travel through your bloodstream. Those microorganisms may lead to inflammation and heart damage.
Manage Your Stress
As we’ve talked about in other posts, clutter and disorganization create stress. However, you can easily reduce stress by organizing one thing per day. Plus, you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment when you’re done.
Give yourself 5-minutes a day to sit with your eyes closed and just relax. You’ll be surprised how refreshed you feel.
Clean Up Your Diet
Getting plenty of fruits, veggies, and a serving of nuts daily helps you live longer and healthier. In addition, a serving of nuts each day helps lower cardiovascular risk.
Change How You Enjoy Your Food
Pre-portion nuts into serving-size containers so you won’t eat the whole can or jar in one sitting. Put fruits on a counter or at the front of the fridge, so you see them first. Go shopping with a full stomach and stick to your list.
Manage When and How You Interact with Technology
Most Americans already check their phones nearly 100 times per day. Turn off your notifications; you’re not going to miss anything.
Create no-phone zones in your home. Perhaps the bedroom and dinner table. Using the phone before bed can impact your ability to sleep. And by making your bedroom a no-phone zone, you’ll ensure reaching for your phone isn’t the first thing you do when you get up.
You could also try going screen-free one day per week. Spend the day doing something you love instead.
Stay in Touch with Loved Ones
A few 10-minute calls each week can reduce loneliness by as much as 20%.
If you’ve been thinking about reconnecting with someone – do it! It’s easy to talk yourself out of it, but the connection is important. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Heart, male and female cardiac patients who reported feeling lonely were two and three times more likely to die, respectively, a year after their hospital discharge. So reach out!
You can also stay connected to others by giving little gifts. Someone will know you’re thinking about them and be more likely to reach out to you if you send them a note, small gift, or an act of kindness or text them a picture.
According to a 2019 study, spending 20 minutes among trees significantly reduces levels of stress hormones.
Be of service to others in ways that are comfortable for you. Then, when you need help, the community you’ve developed will be there to support you.
Keep a gratitude journal and list the things you’ve always wanted to do so that you can revisit it and complete them when the time is right.
Protect Your Skin
Use sunscreen and lip balm with sunblock in it. For most people, SPF 30 is plenty. Wash your face twice a day and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Add a yearly skin cancer check to your annual doctor’s appointment, as skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to estimates, approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Create a Safe, Calm Home Environment
It’s okay to have a favorite TV show(s) or binge-watch something you’ve been eagerly anticipating. But when the show is over, turn off the TV and do something active.
If impulse buying online is putting a hole in your wallet, here’s a tip. Remove your credit card information from the shopping sites you use often. If you have to enter it each time, you’ll be more mindful about your purchases.
Use glass storage containers instead of plastic, and opt for organic food whenever possible. Pay particular attention to the “dirty dozen.”
Clean up the air in your home with plants and a HEPA filter.
Check Your Posture
Once an hour, do this quick exercise:
Relax your shoulders by pulling them back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Next, pull your chin slightly towards your throat. This quick posture check will help you get used to holding your body in an optimal way.
When carrying anything, aim for balanced weight on both sides of your body. This helps prevent strains and ensure an upright position.
Which of these ways to stay healthy as we age will you add to your life?