health mind and body

Healthy habits that can have a lasting impact


Be productive. While many working men and women dream of the day when they can leave the daily grind behind once and for all, you might want to think more about a second career than a long, carefree retirement. A study from British researchers published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that each extra year of work was associated with a six-week delay in the onset of dementia. While you may want to retire from your professions, finding second careers or volunteering close to full-time hours may improve your long-term health and quality of life.

Stay on your toes. A healthy diet is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, but diet alone is not enough to promote a long and healthy life. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, the risks associated with a physically inactive lifestyle are considerable. Such risks include a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and coronary heart disease and even a greater risk for certain cancers. In addition, physical inactivity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression. Inactivity tends to increase with age, so men and women aiming for long and healthy lives should make physical activity a vital part of their daily lives.

Tip: The key is to stay active, so do something you will enjoy. If you will not stick to a regular gym routine, go on a walk or ride your bike every day instead. Think about what works best for you, consult your doctor, and get moving!

Eat healthy foods and whole grains. The majority of adults in the U.S. consume more than double the recommended daily allowance of sodium, which can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease; most of this high sodium intake comes from pre-packaged foods and restaurants. Numerous studies have shown that increasing whole grain consumption can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that eating an extra two servings osf whole grains per day decreased a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21 percent. That’s an important finding, as additional research has found that people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Tip: Eat nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Avoid sweet, salty, and highly processed foods. Keep in mind that each person has different dietary needs — follow your doctor’s suggestions regarding dietary restrictions.

Maintain your brain. Be mindful that as we age, one in eight older adults (aged 65+) in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and some cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. Studies have shown that a lifestyle that includes cognitive stimulation through active learning slows cognitive decline.

Tip: Never stop learning and challenging your mind — at every age! Take dance lessons, learn a new language, attend lectures, learn to play a musical instrument, or read a book, and so forth.

Reduce stress. As we grow older, our stressors change and so does our ability to deal with stress. Long-term stress can damage brain cells and lead to depression. Stress may also cause memory loss, fatigue, and decreased ability to fight off and recover from infection. In fact, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of illness is either caused or complicated by stress.

Tip: We cannot entirely avoid stressful situations but we can learn better techniques to cope with stress. When you are stressed, be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat nutritious foods. Talk to a loved one or counselor about your stress, and try some relaxation techniques, such as circular breathing, yoga, or meditation. Remember to always keep things in perspective — try to accept and adapt to the things you cannot control.

Take charge of your health. Most of our health is not controlled by the health care system but by our own actions, our environment, our genes, and social factors. In addition, physicians are not perfect; medical errors do happen. The more patients participate in their own health care, the more satisfied they tend to be with the care they receive.

Tip: Think about the ways that your health can improve by changing your lifestyle, and make those changes. You are your own best advocate. Contact your primary care practitioner for an annual physical or whenever you have a concern about your health, and go to those appointments prepared. Bring a list of your current prescription and non-prescription medications, including herbal supplements; keep a list of your health concerns; and, most importantly, ask questions!