What Do We Know About Healthy Aging?

Senior woman injured sitting in the hallway of hospital holding crutchesThe NIA shared that many factors influence healthy aging. Some of these, such as genetics, are not in our control. Others — like exercise, a healthy diet, going to the doctor regularly, and taking care of our mental health — are within our reach. Research supported by NIA and others has identified actions you can take to help manage your health, live as independently as possible, and maintain your quality of life as you age. Read on to learn more about the research and the steps you can take to promote healthy aging.

Taking care of your physical health

While scientists continue to actively research how to slow or prevent age-related declines in physical health, they’ve already discovered multiple ways to improve the chances of maintaining optimal health later in life. Taking care of your physical health involves staying active, making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, limiting your alcohol intake, and proactively managing your health care. Small changes in each of these areas can go a long way to support healthy aging.

Get moving: Exercise and physical activity

Whether you love it or hate it, physical activity is a cornerstone of healthy aging. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer but also may live better — meaning they enjoy more years of life without pain or disability.

A study of adults 40 and older found that taking 8,000 steps or more per day, compared to only taking 4,000 steps, was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes. You can increase the number of steps you get each day by doing activities that keep your body moving, such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Although it has many other benefits, exercise is an essential tool for maintaining a healthy weight. Adults with obesity have an increased risk of death, disability, and many diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. However, thinner is not always healthier either. Being or becoming too thin as an older adult can weaken your immune system, increase the risk of bone fracture, and in some cases may be a symptom of the disease. Both obesity and underweight conditions can lead to loss of muscle mass, which may cause a person to feel weak and easily worn out.

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