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Aging gracefully, aging healthily: What you need to know

Aging gracefully, aging healthily: What you need to know

Even if you last set foot in a classroom 30 or 40 years ago, there’s still something about that back-to-school season that brings a sense of change and renewal. That’s why September was chosen as Healthy Aging Month, with a goal of spurring people 45 and older to think about how they can thrive as they grow older. Whether you’re a baby boomer or part of Generation X, you’re never too old (or too young) to take steps towards aging gracefully—no plastic surgery required.

A holistic approach to aging gracefully

Simply looking years younger while growing older isn’t the secret to aging gracefully. According to a fairly small study in the Journal of Aging Research, adults over 60 were most likely to say they were aging well if they maintained a balance of good physical health, mental health and social engagement. While no one can predict what hardships might happen as you age, there are plenty of steps you can take to position yourself to handle them.

Focus on your physical health

There are three key things you can do to improve your physical health, no matter what shape you are in:

  • Eat healthy foods. Skip the fried, salty and sugary foods in favor of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains to reduce the risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
  • Get and stay active. You don’t have to train for a marathon to get the benefits of exercise as you age. Find an activity that gets you moving, such as walking, swimming or bicycling, and try to fit in at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. (That’s 150 minutes per week.) Regular cardiovascular exercise can lower your blood pressure, and strength training can improve your bone health and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Keep up with your preventive care. Making annual wellness visits to your primary care provider and getting needed screenings such as mammograms can catch diseases in the early stages when they may be more treatable.

Your mental well-being matters

All the plastic surgery in Hollywood won’t make a difference in your life if you don’t have the frame of mind to appreciate it.

  • Don’t act your age. Thinking young can help you adjust to the aging process with grace. You truly are only as old as you feel.
  • Protect your mental health. You are never too old to experience anxiety, depression, addiction or another mental health issue. There is treatment, and it will improve your life.
  • Stay positive. While growing older isn’t always easy, trying your best to keep an upbeat attitude and surround yourself with positive people can help.

Your lifestyle makes a difference

Older people need social lives just like younger people. But when family members move away or friends pass on, it can be all too easy to isolate yourself. However, social engagement is crucial to healthy aging, and it may even prevent cognitive decline.

  • Adopt a dog. There’s no better way to meet your neighbors than to take regular strolls on your block with an adorable pup. As an added bonus, you’ll get daily exercise.
  • Take classes. If you’ve ever wanted to paint, learn to play the flute or speak a second language, now is the time. You’ll gain new skills while meeting new people.
  • Volunteer. Whether you want to help set up events, become a docent at a museum, help build a house or even assist in your nearest LCMC Health facility, there’s a world of opportunity awaiting.
Want more advice on aging gracefully or taking steps to change unhealthy habits? Talk to an LCMC Health primary care provider. Make an appointment today.