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A Conscious Choice: Tips for Healthy Aging

Former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham once said, “No one can avoid aging, but aging productively is something else.” There’s no avoiding the fact that growing old is a natural process that brings pronounced mental and physical change, and leaves people vulnerable to illness and the ravages of disease, especially those who don’t take self-care seriously. Lack of nutrition and exercise, insufficient sleep, isolation, and depression are common causes of physiological decline. Science has proven that the more people remain active in old age, the better their quality of life and the longer they may expect to live. An older adult who maintains a healthy lifestyle is far more likely to remain productive, which is essential to aging well and remaining free of illness and disease.

Moving on

More people are working past retirement age than ever before. When retirement does come, it can be a tremendous psychological blow for individuals who’ve worked hard most of their lives. For many, a busy career and the relationships they established through decades of working are suddenly gone, leaving an emotional void that can be hard to fill. Depression, which saps vigor and motivation, often follows. Staying active is vital. To that end, try spending time with friends, start a new hobby, take a class online, travel, or do some freelance consulting work from home.

Get active

There’s a close relationship between physical and mental health. Regular exercise activates neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good. It increases motivation and optimism and improves brain activity, which can slow cognitive decline and help prevent the onset of dementia. Try joining an aerobics class, a social activity that reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Stretching and isometric exercises can do wonders for your flexibility, and working out with using your body weight, light weights or kettlebells as resistance can help stave off the residual physical effects of aging by building muscle strength. Add new (or perfect existing) exercises to your regimen, such as: goblet squats, lunges, planks, or push ups.

Watch what you eat

Eating healthy foods and following a balanced diet is something anyone can do. These are things we’ve all been taught since childhood - getting enough of the five basic food groups and deriving the health benefits of each one. Dairy, whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and lean meats give you the energy you need to stay active, prevent illness, and preserve good digestive health, an important point because aging gradually degrades one’s digestive system. Eating right can also be an enjoyable endeavor, something spouses or friends can work toward together.

Grey matter

You’ve probably heard people joke about their brains having gone soft with age. While not a precise description of what happens to the brain with age, it’s close. Actually, studies have found that vital synaptic functions actually shrink as a result of stress and certain lifestyle factors. With that in mind, it’s important to keep your synapses firing and your memory sharp with frequent mental activity; anything from crossword puzzles to reading and engaging in creative endeavors like writing poetry or painting can help keep your brain limber.

Canine companionship

Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows that the pet-owner relationship is a special one. Dogs have been shown to improve mood, alleviate depression, reduce stress and boost a general feeling of well-being. Taking regular walks in a local or nearby dog park benefits you and your pet with fresh air, sunshine and exercise. It’s easy to find a dog park if you’ve not yet visited one. You can find dog park spread across most cities, including Saint Paul, MN, Knoxville, TN, Madison, WI, Calgary, Indianapolis, IN, Raleigh, NC, Portland, OR, Miami, FL, San Jose, CA, and Albuquerque, NM. Staying active in old age is easier and a lot more fun with a furry friend alongside.

A conscious decision

Depression and physical decline are common among senior citizens who feel cast adrift after retirement, or who have minimal human contact. A healthy diet, exercise (physical and mental), sufficient sleep and companionship are essential for maintaining a strong sense of well-being. Leading a happy, healthy life is a conscious decision, no matter what age you are.

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