What is healthy aging?
Healthy aging means staying well as you get older. How you will feel as you age depends on the type of health problems that run in your family. But it also depends on the choices you make.
If your family members have diseases or ongoing (chronic) health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes, then your chances of having those problems increase. But just because your risk is higher, it doesn't mean you will have the same problems.
In fact, the choices you make can help reduce your chances of getting illnesses that run in your family. And even if you do get an illness, choosing to be active, to eat healthy foods, and to learn how to deal with stress can slow down or even prevent problems that often come with getting older.
What kinds of changes should you expect as you get older?
Changes as you get older are usually gradual.
Certain physical changes are common. Your metabolism slows over time. This means that your body needs less food energy than before. How much and how well you sleep will likely change. Most people start to need reading glasses around age 40, and many have some hearing loss later in life. Starting in your 50s, bone aging increases. Also starting around age 50, you may notice changes in sexual function. It's normal to have a slower sexual response.
Most vital organs gradually become less efficient with age. The kidneys are less able to keep enough water in your body. And the heart can start to show signs of wear and tear. So as you get older, it's important to be physically active, drink plenty of water, and choose healthy foods. Doing these things will help your body work well for a longer period of time.
What do you need to do to feel your best as you age?
Being active is one of the most important things you can do for your health at any age. Physical activity keeps your body strong, and it helps with how you feel. It can be anything from walking to gardening to working out at the gym. The important thing is to be active almost every day.
Your mental and emotional health is also important. Protect or improve your emotional health by connecting with friends, family, and the community. Try to keep stress at a minimum.
Keep your brain active and challenged to protect or improve your memory and mental sharpness. Learn or do something new and different. Attend an educational workshop, or learn a new card game.
Depression can be a serious problem for older adults. If you think you may be depressed, seek help.
Other good health habits can help you stay at your best:
- Eat healthy foods. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy foods. Avoid salty foods and foods with a lot of fat in them.
- If you smoke, try to quit.