Healthy Aging: Something to consider

As our population ages, various technologies are advancing.

Among one of the biggest? Anti-aging – and not just products; medical tourism, anti-aging conferences, and anti-aging procedures are rising in numbers.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on the anti-aging market, overall, we can expect a significant revenue over the coming years.  Experts expect that this industry can see upwards of over $421.4 billion revenue by the year 2030.

That said, rather than fighting aging, there is a lot that can be done to impact healthy aging. September was Healthy Aging Month and brought forth much good information on how to get older – healthfully and gracefully.

Debunking Myths

First, let’s do a little ‘fact versus fiction’. New research has brought to light some interesting information on healthy aging.

FACT or FICTION -> We lose cognitive abilities as we age.

FICTION.  Unless there are other comorbidities at play, Columbia University researchers have detected that aging adults are able to improve cognitive abilities late into life – even strengthening parts of the brain that had been left dormant.

FACT or FICTION -> Balance problems, muscle wasting, and weight loss are an inevitable part of aging.

FICTION.  Most of the time, these issues are preventable. We used to think that, unfortunately, our bodies simply declined with age. However, exercise may stave off most of the maladies that we associate with aging. According to Linda P. Fried, the dean Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and a world-renowned gerontologist, “Exercise is the closest thing we’ve found to a magic pill for combating the effects of aging. That’s because it works on every physiological system and keeps your entire body fine-tuned. It even stimulates your brain and helps to prevent cognitive decline.”

Why is Healthy Aging Important?

As a nation, we are concerned about healthy aging for a variety of reasons.  As the statistics show, we want to look and feel younger.  The statistics also show that the prevalence of various diseases is on the rise.  For example, Alzheimer’s rates are increasing at an alarming rate.  It is estimated that by the year 2050, the rate of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple, to approximately sixteen million.  Unfortunately, we don’t spend enough research dollars on Alzheimer’s, though our numbers are on the rise.  Comparatively, we spend $600 million on Alzheimer’s and the disease costs us $225 billion annually.

Reviewing research about Alzheimer’s shows us that in Americans with higher levels of education, the rates are actually decreasing since 2000.  While this is promising, it is also alarming – why is this disproportionally affecting people with less education?

And this is just a tiny piece of why healthy aging is important.  There is so much we don’t know yet.  We know that exercise can stave off balance problems and maintain musculature.  We know that we can actually improve our cognitive abilities.  We know that there is much work to do in neurocognitive research.  

So what can you do to age healthfully?

Eat a Balanced Diet

There are many types of healthy diets.  Researchers believe that consuming “whole” foods – foods without nutrition labels or with minimal ingredients – may be the way to go.

Try to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and nuts.  

It is also important to consume plenty of fiber.  Fiber not only helps to keep you full, but it can help reduce cholesterol levels.  It can also help reduce the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and heart disease.  Men should aim for 30g of fiber per day and women should aim for 21g per day.

Get Moving

Walking may be the best exercise that you can do to improve your overall health.  If you aren’t exercising currently, aim for 30 minutes of walking each day.  It is ok to work your way up to this – start small and increase incrementally.  

Research indicates that regular exercise, such as walking, can improve mood, control weight, improve sleep, keep the bones and muscles strong, and reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

If you’ve never exercised before, starting in your 60s and 70s may still have benefits; the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging revealed that older male participants who participated in high intensity exercise, such as lap swimming or running had reduced risk of a coronary event.

Stay Connected

It is important to maintain relationships with family members and friends – especially if you live alone.  Those who are lonely are more likely to develop dementia.  Researchers found that people who are lonely have higher level of stress hormones; this can cause inflammation, which is linked to arthritis and diabetes.

Feeling lonely?  Call a friend or family member.  Pen a letter or an email.  Make a date for lunch or coffee.  Above all – stay connected.

Get Some Rest

Sleeping problems increase as we age.  In fact, insomnia is very common in older adults.  However, getting plenty of sleep is especially important to stay healthy.

To get plenty of rest – 

  • Maintain the same wake and sleep schedule everyday
  • Keep your bedroom dark; this means removing your phone, clocks, and TVs from the room
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening
  • Limit naps to 20 minutes
  • Speak to your healthcare provider if you are still having difficulties

QUIT SMOKING!

As if you haven’t been given enough reasons to quit smoking, healthy aging is another. Tobacco harms every single organ of the body.  Any form of tobacco increases the risk of a variety of health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. What can you do?  Quit.  The body begins to heal within 20 minutes of quitting – and within a year, your chances of developing heart disease drop by 50%.  This ultimately means that you will likely live longer. Don’t feel like you need to go it alone.  Speak with your healthcare provider for help.

Resources

Anti-Aging Market to Generate Revenue Worth $421.4 Billion by 2030. (2020, August). Prescient & Strategic Intelligence. https://www.psmarketresearch.com/press-release/global-anti-aging-market

Craig, D. (2018). The Science of Healthy Aging. Columbia Magazine. https://magazine.columbia.edu/article/science-healthy-aging

WebMD. (2020, June 9). Scientific Tips for Healthy Aging. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/healthy-aging-secret#1-2

What Do We Know About Healthy Aging? (2018). National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-healthy-aging

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