8 Lifestyles Changes to Make If You Want to Stay Healthy Well into Your Old Age

Living a healthy lifestyle is very important for longevity. As we age our bodies tend to have different needs from when we were in our 20s or 30s. That is why creating healthy habits early on can last a lifetime. But if you have gotten a little off track or you are looking to start some new healthy habits, we’ve got a few suggestions to help you stay healthy well into your old age. 

It has been said before that our DNA is the gun and our lifestyle pulls the trigger. This analogy serves to highlight just how large a role our lifestyle plays in our health and longevity. In addition to lifestyle, our DNA plays a major role in our lifespans. With all of the advancements that have been made in recent history, it is hard not to expect to live longer than we may have previously thought. There’s gene therapy, stem cell and T cell procedures, remote surgical procedures and so much more. These scientific advancements aren’t just for those of us who are ill or have health issues. They can also be used to pinpoint potential problems before they become actual problems. You can get details from Poseida on how to use new science to extend your health well into old age.

Our health is more than just a physical thing. It involves our mental and emotional wellbeing as well. When your lifestyle takes more into account than just food and exercise, you are taking a more holistic approach to your life. You can nurture your needs on multiple levels, allowing yourself to live a more fulfilling and longer life. There is a lot to be said for the quality of a person’s life. Living a long life may not be as enjoyable for someone who is suffering from debilitating ailments, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. As you begin to make lifestyle changes think about addressing more than just your physical health.

1. Stop Smoking

Smoking has been repeatedly shown to be detrimental to our overall health. Smoking is a major contributing factor in COPD, cancers, heart disease and more. The sooner a smoker decides to quit, the better. If going cold turkey isn’t working for you, talk to your doctor about other options. There are medications, patches, gums and other cessation tools are available. Regular smokers can expect to lose up to 10 years of life.

Within the first 30 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure begins to normalize. In 8 hours the amount of carbon monoxide in your body is cut in half, allowing for more oxygen rich blood to circulate in your body. And in 12 hours carbon monoxide returns to its optimum level. In 3 days you will likely notice an increase in your energy levels. Within 3 months, almost everything is back to normal. Your risk of heart attack has reduced significantly and your lungs have started to clear significantly. And at the end of your first year your risk of heart disease has been cut in half. 

2. Get Active

Living a sedentary lifestyle won’t get you very far. Those muscles and joints were made for moving, and that is exactly what you should be doing. Physical activity can add years to your life. As little as 15 minutes a day can make a substantial impact. If you find that you have a hard time making time for physical exercise, try making small changes to your routine. Park at the back of the parking lot so you have further to walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator or stand up/move around more at work. Making small changes like these can help you achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week (a little more than 20 minutes per day) and reduce your risk of premature death by 22%.

3. Give

Giving of your time, energy, money, thoughts, etc. can do more than you might think to keep you healthier as you age. Charity and charitable acts can do a lot to fill you with happiness and joy. Knowing that you have had or are having a positive impact on someone else’s life can do a lot for your morale. Not only are you making connections within yourself, you are also making connections to others. We are all connected to one another and intentionally honoring that connection on a regular basis exercises our spirit of giving. It can be as small as volunteering for storytime at your local library or local hospital, feeding the homeless, donating to a food bank and anything else that benefits your fellow humans. Being actively involved in your community does a lot for everyone involved. So keep your eyes open for opportunities to volunteer and lend a helping hand. 

4. Reduce Your Stress

It’s impossible to avoid stress altogether. If we did, then nothing would ever happen to us, good or bad. Stress is defined as mental or emotional strain that results from demanding circumstances. It can be just as stressful to help a child with homework or prepare for a visit from a long time friend from out of town as it is to tackle a major project for work. Stressful situations aren’t always negative, but they can elicit a stress response from you and cause an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone). Sustained stressors or being in a constant state of stress will cause an excess amount of cortisol in the body. This can lead to inflammation, nerve and tissue damage, fatigue, mood swings, high blood pressure and weight gain. This is why anxiety and stress are linked to premature death in both men and women.

Another way to reduce stress is to prioritize your happiness. Happiness is great for both your mood and longevity. Laughter, optimism, positive thinking, spa time, engaging in charitable acts, etc. can be helpful in reducing the amount of stress you feel and increasing your happiness. 

You can also start a meditation or mindfulness practice to reduce your stress. You can start by taking a minute or two to be silent. If you find that you have a hard time focusing you can try a moving meditation like coloring, yoga or journaling or guided meditation where someone is taking you through the process. You can also focus on your breathing for a few minutes. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more apparent the benefits of meditation become. Some of which include more restful sleep, lower blood pressure and pain management.

5. Healthy Eating

It is often said that our medicine should be our food and that our food should be our medicine. This simply means that what we ingest has a profound impact on our health and that we have the ability to alter our body’s processes by making healthy eating choices. Reducing our salt and sugar intake can do a lot for your digestive and circulatory health. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure that you are getting a wide array of vitamins and minerals and plenty of fiber to help your body metabolize nutrients and absorb toxins and waste. 

6. Be Social

Engaging in social activity creates a sense of community. Humans are social beings, so having a community to connect with allows us to experience less loneliness. In addition to having a social outlet, it is just as important to be an active participant of the group. The ability to have someone to call on when needed is helpful in managing stressful situations, illnesses, happy times and more. It can be as simple as a book club or knitting group or as complex as a fraternity/sorority or a church. As few as three social ties can make a marked difference.

7. Quality Sleep

Getting enough sleep each night is important no matter what your age. How much sleep you’re getting is just as important as the quality of sleep you’re getting. If you are waking up multiple times each night or tossing and turning half the night, you’re probably not feeling very well rested when you rise. This can lead to a weakened immune system, irritability, increased blood pressure and more. And if you already have issues in some of these areas, poor quality sleep will likely magnify them.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you aren’t sure how much sleep you need, do a little experiment. Try out different hours of sleep and when you find that you feel rested and energized, stick with that number of hours as often as possible.

8. Moderate Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can greatly affect your organs. Namely your liver, pancreas and heart. Excessive drinking can lead to premature death, but moderate drinking reduces that risk by nearly 20%.

Although when and how we die is something we have little control over, making healthy choices can do a lot more than we think for our longevity. Even implementing a few of these suggestions into your daily routine can have a big impact on staying healthy and full of vitality well into your elder years.

Published by

Pranab Chatterjee

Skeptic Oslerphile. Public Health Scientist and Program Manager, Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Past: Scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases; Senior Research Associate, Public Health Foundation of India. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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