Living longer, aging well

Photo by Colton Miller from Unsplash.com

Do you remember when being over 70 years was considered old? Now, it’s not necessarily the case. Statistics show that one in seven women and one in twelve men will live to celebrate their 100th birthday. Instead of shopping for canes, people in their 70’s are running for President. In fact, people in their 70s are running marathons! People are skiing into their 80s, and jumping out of planes in their 90s. Seriously. Because we are living longer, it is even more important to take care of our bodies.

We have made tremendous medical advancements in replacing or rejuvenating body parts that age and no longer function well. Most joints in the body can be replaced by artificial joints that enable us to move with more ease and less pain. We can inject steroids, botox, stem cells and plasma into tissue to halt or facilitate natural processes. These advancements help us to stay active longer, move more fluidly and in some cases, avoid surgery.

If we are lucky enough to live a long life, degeneration is inevitable. Modern medicine can certainly help us prolong our active lifestyles, but we should also practice preventative medicine. Following are some suggestions to keep your body and joints healthy well into your golden years.

1) Move. Our joints and muscles need to move often for optimal health. Walking, cycling, swimming, yoga or any pain-free activity will help to improve blood flow, maintain a base level of conditioning and to lubricate your joints. Walking a minimum of 30 minutes and/or stretching are great daily habits. If you need motivation, try an exercise class or ask a friend to join you. You are less likely to make excuses if someone else is counting on you.

2) Strength train. Resistance exercise is beneficial for bone health and will help prevent unnecessary strain to your joints. Balanced strength (and flexibility) across the joints of our body helps to maintain an even distribution of forces. When muscle strength is lacking on one or both sides of a joint, degeneration of that joint may happen more quickly. If you are new to strength training, I suggest working with a professional. A physical therapist is the best place to start if you have health concerns or orthopedic challenges. Otherwise, a personal trainer can get you started. You may want just a few sessions with a professional to gain the confidence needed to work on your own.

3) Sleep. So many of us don’t sleep well or enough. If you are one of those people who struggle consistently to get a good night’s sleep, why not seek help? In some cases medication or supplements such as melatonin can help you through difficult times. In the meantime, check out this blog for suggestions and tips for a better night’s sleep.

4) Eat a balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time as a balanced and nutritious diet. At the most basic level we need nutrient dense vegetables, fiber, and some form of protein for optimal health. Inflammatory foods like sugar and white flour should be limited or avoided. Here is a list of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods. This study is over ten years old, but the foods deemed inflammatory are still accurate. If you have allergies, the list may vary.

5) Lead a balanced life. High levels of stress for long periods of time can affect muscle tone, quality of sleep, digestion and health in general. Seek to rest and play in some form as often as possible. George Bernard Shaw said it best: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

6) Love yourself. Show yourself some love by taking care of yourself. Care for your body, your mind and spirit by pursuing physical and mental activities that you enjoy. When you feel good (because you slept, you ate well, and you had “you” time) your body usually feels good too. If you aren’t experiencing pain or distress, you will be more apt to seek adventure, engage with others and do the things that fill you rather than fill your time, like going to a doctor’s office.

I hope these tips motivate you to be proactive with your health. Feel free to reach out to me with questions or comments. Or, sign up to receive monthly tips on staying healthy!

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