Let’s face it, we all want to be that guy or gal who’s still kicking it at 70, 80, or older. But how do you get there? Turns out that taking care of yourself now matters.
Healthy Living and Aging
It certainly makes sense that how we live and how we take care of our bodies throughout our lives would have an impact on our health as we age. Obviously, the sooner we focus on our health the better; however, it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that can positively impact our health and how we feel. Let’s review just a few of the issues we’ve covered in the past couple of years.
- Telomeres live on the tips of our chromosomes, and they act like a genetic clock. As we age, those telomeres shorten, which ticks forward the hands of time. Physical activity, one study found, slows aging by lengthening our telomeres and, therefore, our life-span.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs (i.e., statins) can actually cause the mitochondria in our cells to burn out faster as we age. CoQ10 was shown in one study to improve the damage these drugs cause to the mitochondria.
- Controlling stem cell loss and nurturing stem cells can help keep muscles healthy as you age.
- Chronic inflammation, which is an underlying factor in so many diseases today and which is so rampant due to our sugar-laden, carb-driven, refined-food diets, can make us susceptible to premature aging.
Now let’s look at a new study that investigated how lifestyle factors can impact disability, and even death, at the end of life.
Lifestyle Factors and Their Impact
The average age of participants in new study was 73, and over 5,000 of these older adults were followed for 25 years (1989–2015). The purpose was to investigate the impact of specific lifestyle factors on the participants as they approached and entered old age. Lifestyle factors included a variety of things, such as activity levels, diet, BMI, smoking and/or alcohol consumption, and even social support. Researchers assessed these impacts via the participants’ activities of daily living (ADLs), which are basic, normal activities we typically perform on our own every day. These include dressing, being independently mobile, feeding ourselves, attending to our own hygiene without assistance, and much more. Researchers wanted to know the number of years these participants were able to attend to their own ADLs.
The results? Participants who were obese experienced an earlier onset, or expanded length, of disability at the end of life than those who were normal weight. Additionally, lower healthy-eating scores showed an expanded length of disability when compared to those with higher healthy-eating scores. Finally, those who walked regularly (.5 percentage points for every 25 blocks walked per week) generally experienced a postponed and shorter period of disability than their more sedentary counterparts. Not surprisingly, smokers experienced not just longer periods of disability but also shorter life-spans altogether.
Researchers concluded that disability at the end of life can be postponed by focusing on healthy lifestyle factors. In some cases, death can be delayed. While this study looked at lifestyle factors in an already elderly population, clearly the earlier we can adopt a healthy lifestyle to accomplish healthy aging the better.
5 Ways You Can Work Toward Healthy Aging Now
- Eat healthy. Make sure you are familiar with the five food myths that can be wreaking havoc on your diet. For this one, you may want to read Dr. Pitts’s book, Nutrition 2.0:
- Exercise regularly. Walk a few blocks each evening, participate in physical activity while you watch TV, or join a fitness class.
- Stop smoking. If you are a smoker, regardless of your age, first and foremost, find a way to stop.
- Say no to side-effect-laden, unnecessary orthopedic surgeries. To learn how to avoid these as you age, read our book, ProActive:
- Say no to or minimize as much as possible dangerous medications: statins, NSAIDs, opioids, steroids, and so on.
The upshot? You can either have an old age filled with problems and disability or you can have one where you’re that guy or gal who’s still doing things you shouldn’t be able to do. Your choice!