Growing older is not a gift that everyone is given. We are truly lucky if we get to grow old, so find joy in your aging body. There are many aspects of aging that are inevitable—our bodies, our minds, and our surroundings will change—and while no one can stop the process of aging, it is possible to make a few changes to your daily routine in order to ensure that you age well. Here are some healthy habits that you can adopt now that will benefit you greatly in the future.
1. Get Enough Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average person over the age of 65 needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. One study found a connection between insomnia and cognitive decline, but don’t worry too much if you don’t sleep enough during the night, because you can always make it up during the day with a good nap. According to another study, taking short naps of about 45-60 minutes during the daytime could help improve learning and memory function.
2. Do Muscle-Strengthening Workouts
Doing regular cardio workouts is an important part of staying healthy, but weighted or resistance workouts that focus on strengthening and toning muscles are just as important. As you age, you begin to lose muscle mass much faster than when you were younger. After age 30, physically inactive people can lose anywhere from 3-5 percent of their muscle mass every decade. This process of muscle loss due to aging is known as sarcopenia. Muscle loss and muscle weakness puts you at a higher risk for injuries and falls. To make sure that you have healthy, strong muscles, incorporate at least two muscle-strengthening activities a week into your workout routine.
3. Practice Portion Control
Eating healthy as you age is a must. You should take care to try and get all of the daily vitamins that your body needs. Portion control is an often overlooked but very important part of a healthy diet as well. Overeating can lead to certain health problems, like cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, which can both shorten your lifespan. Try to focus on getting 2-3 cups of vegetables per day, 2-3 servings of fruit, 6-7 ounces of whole grains, 3 cups of dairy, and 2-4 ounces of protein. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help you to stay full and hydrated and will help you avoid feeling the need to snack.
4. Protect Your Skin from the Sun
A little bit of sunshine is good for you, because the sun’s UV rays help our bodies to produce vitamin D, but too much sun can lead to increased wrinkles, dark spots, and even skin cancer. So make sure to wear sunscreen if you are going to be outside for a long period of time, even if it is a cloudy day. Buy a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. It is recommended that you use products with no lower than 30 SPF protection and no higher than 50 SPF, as anything lower or higher will not protect against both types of UV rays. Add a hat or a light sweater to your attire for extra protection.
Interacting with friends and family is not only good for the spirit, it’s good for your health as well. One study found that having many healthy social relationships was just as beneficial to one’s health as quitting smoking. According to the same study, being more social could extend a person’s lifespan, because people who have strong social relationships have a 50 percent higher chance of living longer than people with poor social relationships. Another study found that postmenopausal women who spent one day a week looking after their grandchildren had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. So go to family gatherings, eat lunch with a close friend, or call someone you love and have a long chat.