By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Aging is never fun. But it doesn’t have to incredibly painful either. In order to be healthy, happy and entertained during their golden years, Krupa Shah, a geriatric hospitalist at UR Medicine Highland Hospital and an associate professor at URMC, has six tips to healthy aging.
“Your annual visits help you and your health care provider to stay on top of your health,” said Shah. “Screening for medical conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer or other health conditions are important to prevent a wide range of illnesses, injuries and health conditions.”
1 Stay Active
Regular physical activity lowers your risk of falls, obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It can also help you stay mentally fit into old age. For substantial health benefits, the current guideline recommends that older adults participate in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 10-15 minutes spurts per day.
“The evidence is clear. Those who are active and exercise regularly live longer than those who do not,” said Shah.
Exercises also relieves depression and improves mood, according to Shah. Inactivity often accompanies advancing age. Older adults should also include strengthening activities that involve major muscle groups a couple days a week. Those at risk of falling should add exercises that help maintain or improve balance.
2 Limit Stress
There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress, including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension and immune system problems can increase susceptibility to infections.
“Persistent stress can weaken your immune function and reduce your well-being,” said Shah. “While you may not be able to steer away from stress completely, you can certainly take steps to reduce it. Some examples of reducing stress include doing yoga, meditation and deep breathing.”
3 Maintain a Healthy Weight
Like exercise, your eating habits are often not good if you live and eat alone. It’s important for successful aging to eat foods rich in nutrients and avoid the empty calories in candy and sweets. Being overweight or obese increases your chances of dying from hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, dyslipidemia and endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
“If you are overweight, then slimming down can protect against heart disease, diabetes and other conditions that take years off your life,” said Shah. “Aim to eat a healthy well-balanced diet with limited portion sizes — and don’t forget to eat your veggies daily.”
4 Keep Learning
While mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, it can also be a sign of more serious memory problems, such as amnestic mild cognitive impairment, dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease. However, memory loss isn’t just inevitable.
“The number of years of education is associated with lower risk of dementia,” Shah said. “Learning and continuous intellectual engagement keeps you mentally sharp into old age and reduces your risk of dementia. There is always something to learn; go out there and find it.”
5 Maintain Relationships
Maintaining relationships with people who share similar interests and values (spouses/partners, friends, relatives etc.) can promote longevity. Aging in context with family and friends and preserving relationships gives purpose to your life and promotes wellbeing.
“Staying in touch with people over social media or email and texts is a starting point, but having that personal interaction is even better. Pick up the phone or better yet meet your friend or relative in person,” said Shah.
6 Belong to a Community
Several studies show a clear link between having strong social ties and a longer life and better well-being. Some examples that individuals should consider are to volunteer, take a class, and attend organized events. Taking these steps will give you an opportunity to interact with people of varied backgrounds and ages, and can potentially result in mentally-stimulating social interactions, according to Shah.