Healthy Aging

MALL_GUYWhat does “healthy aging” really mean? If you are over 50, your life changes in dramatic ways—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Healthy aging can mean adapting to, and finding ways to cope with, the changes that naturally occur as you get older.

Your children may be leaving your house, you may have health issues, and you may even feel a loss of independence as you age. As you reach your 60s, 70s, and 80s, each stage of your life will bring new joys but also new challenges. Finding things you enjoy, staying physically active, remaining socially connected, and having a positive outlook on your aging can help you continue to live life to its fullest.

For many people, anxiety and fear often accompany aging, which is completely natural. You may wonder how you will take care of yourself and your spouse, should the worst occur. You might be concerned about your mental health and your ability to keep doing the activities you love or that are a part of your daily routine. Just as it is at any time of your life, though, many of your fears may be misguided or overblown—you are stronger and more capable than you might believe.

Exercise over 50

Exercise can be difficult as adults get older. Regardless, it’s important throughout life. If you are healthy, regular exercise helps you stay mentally and physically fit, and it can improve your general outlook on life. Find something you like! Swimming, biking, or maybe a class at your local Y or gym are all great ways to stay in shape. Many classes that are geared towards older adults are available. Even walking is a great way to keep fit. You can easily work it into your daily routine, and you don’t need any equipment or special training to do it. Remember—before beginning any exercise regimen, talk with your doctor or health care provider about what is best for you.

Eating Well over 50

As it is with any age, good nutrition is crucial to keeping you physically well and mentally sharp. Keep healthy foods such as fruits, veggies, and low fat options available to snack on; choosing to stock up on these types of foods instead of junk food is a great step toward maintaining a healthy diet. And a good diet helps reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes.

Physically, our bodies do change, and we need to accommodate our nutritional intake for these changes. Your metabolism shifts as you age, so eating the same amount you did when were younger means you’re more likely to gain weight. Exercise and balancing your food intake can help with this. Your digestive system also slows down, which can make it more difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals. Increasing your fiber intake can help with issues such as constipation and maintaining a healthy weight, and fiber is good for overall digestive health as well.

As you age, bone health can become an issue. One thing that is crucial to maintaining bone health is making sure you get adequate calcium intake. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Nondairy options include foods like kale and broccoli. You can also look for foods that are enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

Maintaining your protein intake is also important as you age. Getting less than 15 grams of protein a day doesn’t benefit you much at all. Shoot for high quality protein in your daily meals, and don’t rely on just red meat. Include beans, nuts, eggs, and fish in your diet.

Another important dietary concern is to remember to drink lots of water. As we age, our bodies lose some of their ability to regulate fluid levels, and we may not realize we haven’t had enough to drink throughout the day. Try to drink water throughout the day and at mealtimes.

If you are having trouble staying on track and making smart food decisions, that’s totally understandable. It’s not easy to change your diet. Ask for help from friends, family, or your health care provider if it’s proving difficult to eat healthy. Working with someone is much easier than trying to make a diet change alone. Like we mentioned before, make your healthy options accessible—keep your fridge stocked with the good stuff to help avoid temptation. Remember to have fun with your food too; it’s easy to get bored with the same old meals three days a week. Try to make preparing meals a ritual in your day that is pleasant and not a dreaded task.

Finding Direction, Meaning, and Joy

Your emotional and mental well-being are just as important as your physical health. As you possibly retire or slow down in your nine-to-five job, you’ll find you may have a lot more time on your hands, time you may not be sure what to do with. Now is a great time to pick up that long-neglected hobby or to try your hand at something you’ve always wanted to do but never have. There is no age limit on learning! You could take a class at your local community college just because you are interested in the subject. You could learn to play an instrument or speak Spanish—whatever makes you happy. It may also be a good idea to take time to reflect on your life; journaling or keeping a notebook is a great way to put things into perspective. And don’t forget to spend time with your grandkids (or grandnephews and nieces); kids can certainly help keep you feeling young!

There are so many possibilities for improving your mental and emotional health, but what’s important is finding the things that are meaningful to you. Laugh, love, and keep your joy. It will help you in all areas of your life as you age.

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