In the last two decades, people have not only been living longer but they also have been staying much healthier later in life, according to a recently released study. Previously, researchers found that very poor health usually hits people in the last several years of life. But now, thanks in large part to medical advances, poor health is more likely to occur only just before death.
So what can you do to make sure you are among those who live longer, healthier lives? We asked Peggy Buchanan, coordinator of vitality/wellness programming for Front Porch, this question. (Front Porch is a large not-for-profit provider of retirement living communities in southern California.) She responded with her top 10 tips for healthy aging. Here they are below. Have your own ideas? Let us know in comments.
1. Fight afternoon fatigue –- Fatigue is a common problem among older adults, especially after lunch. Having a glass of water and a high-antioxidant food like a prune can revitalize the body and stimulate the mind.
2. Exercise from the neck up -– Keeping the brain active and fit is imperative to the health of older adults. Not only does it stave off memory-loss illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function. Try word games and recall exercises. For example, find 5 red objects during a walk in the neighborhood and recall them when back home.
3. Pole walk -– Walking poles allow for more balanced mobility than walkers or canes. Walking with poles engages the muscles of the upper torso, which increases upper-body strength and cardiovascular endurance. Consult a physician before making the switch to poles.
4. Dine in duos -– Those who share meals with others eat less than those who eat alone. This is an easy weight-loss tactic and one that fosters social interaction and engagement. While this is easy for those aging in community, older adults aging at home can plan to have meals with family or friends at least several times a week.
5. Break routine -– Routine limits brain stimulation. Introduce new foods or new ways of eating the same food. For example, replace canned peaches with freshly sliced ones. Also, try taking a different route to the grocery store or shopping center.
6. Sole Support -– As people age, the fat pads on the bottom of their feet compress, creating fatigue and pain. Consider wearing supportive shoes or inserting foot pads for better stability and comfort or socks that have extra padding and a wicking agent to keep feet dry and comfortable.
7. Fats: Out with the bad, in with the good –- Older adults with an increased genetic risk for dementia can reduce the risk by increasing the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, olive oil and green leafy vegetables, can reduce brain inflammation, a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Decrease salt and increase your salsa -– High blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and a significant decline in cognitive function, often increases with age. As adults get older, the sense of taste also fades, leading to a desire for more salt on food to enhance flavor. Decreasing salt intake by putting down the shaker -– and increasing exercise habits by shaking to a salsa beat -– will enhance cardio and cognitive health.
9. Balancing act -– In addition to exercises that build strength and improve flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, make sure to add balance activities to the daily routine. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, walking on challenging surfaces and water exercises all enhance overall balance.
10. Dance like there’s no tomorrow -– Older adults getting regular physical exercise are 60 percent less likely to get dementia. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and releases a protein that strengthens cells and neurons. Dance involves all of the above plus the cerebral activity present in learning and memory.