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What are the keys to staying healthy as I age?

Thinking about staying healthy becomes more pressing as we age, because aging brings a variety of health challenges. Keys to meeting those challenges include the right attitude and the right tools.
  • Socialize. Good friends benefit your health by lifting your spirits and reducing your stress levels. Loneliness, research finds, can lead to serious health-related consequences. Having friends also keeps you mentally healthy. Help your health by staying social and surrounding yourself with good, supportive friends.
  • Exercise and stay active. Even if you don't like structured exercise, your agility, energy levels and strength -- not to mention your mental health, sleep and ultimate level of independence -- can still benefit from things like gardening, dancing, walking, water aerobics, yoga, tai chi and qi gong. It's never too late to start!
  • Limit your fall risk. The risk of falling increases with age, so it's wise to minimize your chances of taking a spill. Exercise will improve your balance and strengthen the muscles that support you. In your home, remove any loose rugs and make sure there are stable handrails on stairs and adequate lighting in hallways and other dark areas.
  • Eat right. A balanced mix of foods is essential for good health and factors into reducing the risk of things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, bone loss, anemia and some types of cancer. You can't go wrong with sensible portions of good-quality, high-fiber fruits, veggies and whole grains in your diet.
  • Develop good bedtime habits. Sleep is essential to good health. Research shows that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to things like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even premature death.
  • Volunteer. How can helping others help you? For one thing, it helps you feel more socially connected, and that's good for your health. And for another, a growing body of research shows that it can help lower blood pressure, which contributes to heart disease, stroke and premature death.
  • Practice optimism. A positive outlook has a positive effect on your overall health and longevity; according to research, having an optimistic outlook early in life can be a predictor of better health and a lower risk of mortality.
This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.
Dr. Kevin J. Soden, MD
Family Medicine
Staying healthy as we age depends on a number of factors. Finding happiness and staying vital is dependent not only on physical factors but also on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The old axiom of “Use it or lose it” is especially true for both our bodies and our brains as we age. Here are the key strategies that provide the best hope for staying healthy as we age:
  • Exercise at least three to five times per week for at least 30 minutes each time.
  • Stimulate your brain through a variety of regular creative activities.
  • Eat three meals per day plus two light snacks.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Spend your time and energy with those important to you.
  • Cultivate relationships with those who bring positive energy into your life.
  • Practice preventive maintenance by making regular visits to your doctor.
  • Use strength training twice a week to maintain muscle mass and function.
  • Find a purpose in life so that you look forward to getting up each day.
When selecting a doctor, be sure that he or she focuses on all aspects of your health, as we are more than our physical self; weare also emotional, sexual, social, and spiritual beings.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.