Getting older is something we have no control over; aging, unfortunately, is just a natural part of life. Of course, there are many aspects that can progress the aging process, such as underlying health conditions you might have or medical problems that run in the family (genetics), and even the environment we live in. However, what we do have control over is the way in which we treat our bodies – from the unhealthy foods that we eat, the physical activity we get (or lack thereof), the bad habits that we make and can break (smoking, for example), and even reducing our levels of stress; because when it comes to aging, lifestyle and mental health both play a huge part.
The good news is, according to a recent United Nations report, people are living much longer now than any other period in history. In Canada, the current average life expectancy for females is 81 years of age, while the current average life expectancy for males is 79 years of age. That being said, aging is still inevitable and the body will definitely go through changes. These changes include those that are physical, and even the way our organs function. So just how do you go about staying as healthy as possible while aging? Dr. Ali Ghahary shares some tips below.
THE FOODS YOU EAT
Regardless of age, food is an important aspect of staying healthy. For example, if you eat foods that are bad for you (i.e. too many carbohydrates, too much sodium, too many fatty foods, and too much sugar), you’re bound to feel bad; but the healthier you eat, the healthier you will feel. There are many anti-aging properties on the market today, such as pills, creams, etc., but some of the best ways to get those anti-aging effects comes from things that are natural, such as the foods we eat…fruits and vegetables in particular. Foods like broccoli, spinach, avocado, sweet potato, blueberries, pomegranates, papaya and nuts are some of the healthiest foods one can consume as part of a healthy aging diet. These foods are not only great for the skin (such as keeping it glowing and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles), but also work as great anti-inflammatory agents as well as protect the skin, strengthen the body’s cell membranes, and even promote good heart health and brain function. Eating healthy can also reduce the risk of respiratory diseases and even certain cancers.
THE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY YOU GET
Again, regardless of age, staying physically fit is also important if you want to remain as healthy as possible. Physical activity is already great to engage in on its own, but when done in correlation with a healthy diet, the benefits can be phenomenal. You’ll be improving mobility, including the function of your bones, muscles and joints, as well as improving heart health, reducing the risk of diabetes, and can even lose or maintain a healthy weight…and the best part about it is you don’t need to partake in strenuous activity to reap those benefits. One of the best types of physical activity you can give your body is walking. Not only is it great for all of the things previously mentioned, but it can also have a positive impact on the mood and reduce anxiety. Another great workout for individuals, especially seniors, is low-impact water aerobics, as this can have a huge effect on improving mobility and strengthening weakened muscles. You can also be just as active by doing something you love, such as spending time in your yard gardening. As long as you’re getting some type of exercise, you’ll be doing your body and your health wonders. By staying physically unfit, you’re increasing your risk of certain illnesses as well as premature death, so try to be as active as your body allows you to be.
THE AMOUNT OF SLEEP YOU NEED
You may not think so, but sleep can also have a positive or negative impact on your health, depending on how much sleep you’re actually getting. Family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary recommend getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, but unfortunately as we get older we tend to sleep less and less. This can be due to a multitude of reasons, such as tossing and turning due to aching bones, incontinence, or other reasons. If these are problems that you or a loved one are dealing with, they are conditions that should be addressed with your family physician. However, if you’re simply not getting enough sleep for reasons unbeknownst to you, it could be because you haven’t set yourself a proper sleep schedule. In order to get a good night’s rest, Dr. Ghahary suggests following a regular sleep schedule. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day – even on days where you’re not working, don’t have school, or other things to tend to. In addition, naps should be avoided in the late afternoons and evenings, as this can actually keep you awake at night. If you find you’re not tired around the time you normally go to bed, try finding something that can help you relax, such as reading a book, listening to calming music, or taking a warm shower or bath. Using essential oils, such as lavender, can also help with sleep. You should avoid the use of smartphones, computers and television late at night as the light from these devices can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Caffeine should also be avoided later in the day and into the evenings. If you’re still having trouble sleeping despite following these tips from Dr. Ghahary, you may suffer from a condition known as insomnia, which is common in adults over the age of 60. To combat insomnia, you may require use of medications such as over-the-counter or prescription strength sleep aides, while still making sure to practice the healthy habits mentioned above.