When it comes to healthy aging, you can sit back and let the cards fall, or take a proactive approach and instill healthy lifestyle choices into your daily routine. Of course, we choose the latter.
1. Eat healthy, clean, wholesome food.
They say you are what you eat. According to Dr. Ronert, our food consumption and nutrition choices can create and sustain healthy cells or accelerate their deterioration. “Statistics show that Americans make their share of life-shortening decisions when it comes to nutrition, often opting for food that makes them unhealthy and overweight or obese,” he says. “In fact, less than 1/3 of American adults are at a weight considered healthy, and that’s directly related to their diet.” Most of us eat too much, and more often than not, the wrong types of foods.
If you want to extend your longevity, think twice about what you eat. Make sure that your daily diet consists of healthy eating habits that contain plenty of the five nutrient groups: amino acids and proteins, the building blocks of healthy cells; unprocessed carbohydrates, which act as a source of energy for the body and brain; healthy fats, to provide energy and help the body properly absorb vitamins; fiber, for maintaining the heath of your stomach and digestive system; vitamins, which assist in building and maintaining healthy tissue to fight inflammation; and minerals that work with the body’s organs and nervous system. Make sure to work plenty of leafy vegetables, fruits and berries, nuts and seeds, onions and other alliums, whole grains, nightshade plants, beans, peas and lentils, fish and seafood, herbs and spices into your diet.
2. Exercise almost every day for about 30 minutes or more
It’s a known fact that a sedentary body can create significant health issues while an active body can extend the quality and length of our life. Simply put, insufficient exercise leads to illness and a shortened life. “People who don’t exercise regularly are at a greater risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” says Dr. Ronert. “Without regular exercise your body accumulates high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which is linked to inflammation.”
Moving your body, be it through strength training, a morning jog, or HIIT, increases blood circulation to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to all of the cells in the body and also converts fat to muscle and energy so you can maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also helps improve the performance of both your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, internal organ cancers and neuro-deficiency diseases. Plus, it helps keep stress manageable, anxiety and depression at bay and results in better sleep patterns.
3. Limit how much alcohol you consume
You may turn to alcohol to take the edge off but drinking large quantities too often does your body no good. “There are strong arguments against heavy alcohol consumption, and the damage caused by this is well documented,” says Dr. Ronert. “Chronic alcohol abuse falls into the same category as smoking—it’s harmful and life-shortening.” Excessive alcohol use and abuse can lead to liver damage and cancers, diminished brain function, weight gain, high blood pressure, increase risk of heart disease and diabetes and depressive tendencies.
Even though red wine is believed to have more benefits (namely heart health benefits) than other types of alcohol, it too needs to follow the rule of “everything in moderation.”
“Here’s my recommendation: if you do not consume alcohol now, there is no good reason to start. If you do drink and you can keep it within a reasonable, minimal to moderate amount, there’s no scientific reason to stop,” says Dr. Ronert.
4. Never, ever smoke
Smoking is by far one of the worst habits you can partake in. Not only do smokers look older than they are (smoking accelerates the aging process), but the addictive habit makes it hard to quit.
“Although many other substances we inhale can be harmful, tobacco is unique in that so many people smoke in damaging amounts every day. Smoking is an efficient way to populate your body with poisons that work together to damage your body cells and DNA, dramatically affect your skin quality, increase your blood pressure and cause life-ending diseases,” explains Dr. Ronert. Tobacco also contains nicotine. Apart from being an essential ingredient in tobacco products, it’s also widely used in insecticide. Cigarette smoke contains a viscous cocktail of thousands of different substances, including hundreds of known toxic substance and at least 60 cancer-causing substances.
Those who smoke take longer to recover from illness and injuries, have more post-surgical skin infections and heal more slowly. And smokers die, on average, at least 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
There are measurable benefits to quitting, no matter how long you’ve been smoking. That means you should stop smoking now before you do more damage. If you quit smoking, chances are that you will experience immediate and longer-term health benefits.
5. Maintain a healthy mind
Don’t think that your psychological state has nothing to do with your physical health and how you age. Truth be told, your mind can affect your body and your body can influence your mind. In a world that seems to grow more stressful by the day, it is even more important than ever to understand and employ techniques that can manage and reduce our tension levels, tackle the negative impacts of stress, build mental resources and help cope with events around us.
Managing stress and anxiety is important in living younger, longer. Mental stress causes biological changes in the body. While not all stress is bad, mentally-zapping stress can reduce your effectiveness and dwindle your energy levels—if it goes on for too long, it can kill you. Research has found a definite link between mental well-being and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Constant stress can lead to habits that further undermine your help. Those that feel the need to relieve daily tension by using substances that seem to relieve the pressure, like tobacco, alcohol and drugs, all of which affect the body and the mind. Chronic stress can also lead to increased blood pressure and muscle tensions that result in persistent pain as well as impaired heart functions and blood circulation.
The best way to maintain a healthy mind and manage stress is to control how you react to it and find a technique that allows you to process the stress in a healthy way. Reducing stressful situations, looking towards supportive relationships, as opposed to toxic ones, and practicing mental workouts help mitigate negative stress.