Aging is inevitable – but unhealthy aging is not. It is never too late to take steps to improve one’s health and enjoy the benefits of healthy aging. By focusing on a few proven, effective methods, one can live a fuller, happier and more productive life.
Understanding Healthy Aging
While there is no one single healthy aging definition, different organizations have attempted to define what healthy aging means. According to the West Virginia Healthy Aging Network, “Healthy aging is the development and maintenance of optimal mental, social and physical well-being and function in older adults.
Healthy aging is clearly worth thinking about for anyone who is getting older. Men in particular should consider what it means to age in a healthy way. According to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, “Men are often more likely to ignore their physical health and well being than women.”
Healthy aging tips for men are similar in many ways to those for women, but it is important for individuals to tailor their approach to healthy aging based on individual needs and circumstances.
Keys to Healthy Aging
Aging in the healthiest way possible is obviously desirable. But what are the keys to healthy aging? Some of the most useful tips for healthy aging include:
1. Keep up with screenings, checkups and vaccinations.
There are a number of screenings and vaccinations that men can benefit from, including screening for blood pressure, skin cancer, blood sugar, cholesterol, prostate cancer and more. Keeping regular appointments with a healthcare provider is necessary to spot problems early on, when treatment is often more effective. There are also vaccines that older individuals should consider, including flu shots, tetanus and shingles. Everyone should get periodic health checkups, but as one gets older maintaining a relationship with a healthcare provider becomes increasingly important. Doctors are trained to help patients maintain their health at all life stages, making them invaluable companions as one starts to move on in years.
2. Maintain proper nutrition.
Good nutrition builds the foundation for healthy aging over a lifetime. Individuals can have different responses to certain foods, but in general, the advice for nutrition as one gets older includes consuming more whole foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet remains one of the most highly recommended by nutritionists for everyone, especially as you get older. It emphasizes the consumption of plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits along with healthy fats like olive oil – while minimizing red meat and encouraging the consumption of fish. The Mediterranean diet is also popular because it is relatively easy to maintain, as one can eat filling, delicious meals regularly. In general, it is more beneficial to make healthy eating a part of one’s lifestyle than to repeatedly try out fad “diets.”
3. Exercise regularly.
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle reduce stress and declining health. Exercise also delivers a wide range of benefits physically and mentally. Getting exercise each day makes it easier to enjoy quality sleep, lowers depression, helps reduce pain, strengthens the heart and the bones. All of these benefits can be enjoyed from just 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. That is just a little over 20 minutes a day of vigorous walking or any activity that one enjoys doing. In fact, it is beneficial to find activities that are fun to do so it is not such a struggle to exercise. Riding a bike, jogging, swimming, hiking, yoga… whatever is enjoyable and works up a sweat is worthwhile. Sorry fellas, golf doesn’t quite count.
4. Maintain quality relationships.
Health and longevity have been linked to a strong social circle. Relationships play a vital role in good health and should not be ignored when considering how to live a long healthy life. It is easy to lose touch with people as one grows older. Children grow up and move away. Friends retire and leave. While it can be painful to go through such experiences, it is important to do what one can to connect and maintain connections with others. A simple phone call can do a lot to reduce the feeling of isolation. Being part of a group, such as a club or other organization, is even better.
5. Stop smoking.
The advice to stop smoking has remained constant for decades and will continue to persist. There are just too many reasons to quit. Stopping smoking is not easy, but healthy aging is unlikely if one continues to smoke cigarettes.
6. Exercise the brain.
Of older adults in the United States, ONE IN EIGHT has Alzheimer’s. Stimulating the mind through ongoing challenges in life has been demonstrated to slow down the decline in mental faculties as one ages. This does not mean one must do math problems every day as they get older. It means that one should keep the mind active learning new things as part of an overall lifestyle. Whether it is learning a new language or instrument, reading, trying out a programming class or performing in a play, keeping the mind on its toes is integral to good mental health as one ages.
7. Lower stress levels.
Stress contributes to illness and ill health in general. As one ages it is important to learn effective coping techniques for stress. There are a number of things that can be done to lower stress, including regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep and learning relaxation and/or meditation techniques. Stress will still come and sometimes it will be impossible to let things go and relax – but the more one learns to weather life’s unpredictabilities, the easier it is to enjoy good health over the long term.
Enjoy the Benefits of Healthy Aging
Aging is a process that everyone inevitably must go through. While there is no way to prevent it, there are many ways to enjoy better health as the years pass by. Taking steps like eating healthier and exercising regularly can make a dramatic difference in the way one feels no matter what age they happen to be. The more steps one takes to ensure healthy aging, the better quality of life they can expect in the years to come.