What is Healthy Aging?
The Secrets of the Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth is a spring that supposedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. Until an elixir is found, in some remote forest in the Amazon, the existence of the “Fountain of Youth” is still a mystery. Healthy Aging is the development and maintenance of optimal mental, social and physical well-being in older adults. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best way to combat the effects of aging.
The number of older persons – defined as age 60 and over – are growing in virtually all countries, and worldwide trends are likely to continue with no end in sight. In 2002, there were an estimated 605 million older persons in the world, nearly 400 million of whom were living in low-income countries. By 2025, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to reach more than 1.2 billion, with about 840 million of these in low-income countries. The Kansas City area’s older adult population is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years, from almost 180,000 in 2007 to more than 372,000 by the year 2030.
It is possible to live an active and healthy life even though our bodies and minds are changing with advancing age. There are proactive steps you can take: eat a balanced diet, keep your mind and body active, don’t smoke, get regular checkups and practice safety habits to avoid accidents and falls. Adopting healthy habits and behaviors, staying involved in your community, using preventive services, managing your health conditions, and understanding all your medications contribute to a productive and meaningful life.
Secret 1: Staying Active
Add simple activities into your daily routine like: walking your dog, gardening, yoga, stretching, even lifting lightweight objects around the house can all contribute to staying active and healthy.
Maintaining your driving skills will ensure your mobility. Schedule regular vision and hearing tests, manage any chronic conditions you may have and understand your limitations. Drive when the road and you are in good condition. Stash your cell phone and focus on the road.
Secret 2: Staying Connected in Your Community
Attend local events or volunteer for a cause important to you. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. Working in your community you can get the opportunity to utilize and pass on the skills acquired in your career.
Secret 3: Nutrition for Older Adults
Incorporate these twelve foods into your diet to slow the aging process: Blueberries – packed with phytochemicals which fight cancer and reduces inflammation, Almonds – high in magnesium, Tomatoes – high In phytochemicals and antioxidants, Flaxseed – high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation, Grass-fed Dairy – high in vitamin K2 which is key in regulating the body’s calcium levels, Spinach – rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants and high in fiber, Beans – lots of fiber and protein, Wild Salmon – high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, Yogurt – healthy in bacteria known as probiotics help with the digestive process, Turmeric – loads of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds help with the digestive process, Garlic –contains the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound allicin, Dark Chocolate – contains cocoa flavanol can reverse the cognitive aging process.
Eating right and staying fit are important and as we get older our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health. New research shows that a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and even seafood can help give one a younger-looking appearance and keep them living longer.
Secret 4: Locating Benefits and Finding Care
Go to www.benefits.gov to see if you are eligible to receive benefits. You can sign up for Medicare benefits, see if a service is covered, submit a claim, and more at www.medicare.gov. Find physicians, group practices, hospitals, home health agencies, services offered, and quality of care and more at www.medicaid.gov. You can find resources in your community that provide assistance for older adults at www.eldercare.acl.gov.
Secret 5: Understanding Brain and Mental Health
It is important to keep your brain healthy as you age. Some health conditions can negatively affect your brain. Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes can alter or damage blood vessels throughout your body, including the brain. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia also harm the brain. Studies are being conducted on how exercise and eating healthy may prevent dementia. A good resource to learn more about mental health issues are at www.nimh.gov.
Secret 6: Understanding Diseases & Conditions
As we age everyone will experience some sort of injury, condition or disease. From Alzheimer’s to Vision health it’s important to manage your lifestyle to combat the variety of conditions affecting your body with advancing age. Work with your doctor to understand and manage potential health risk factors making good life choices, eating healthy and exercising.
Secret 7: Managing Medication & Treatment
First and foremost, consult a physician about your medications and treatment. A tip for keeping your prescription medications organized: Make a list. Keep an updated list of all your over-the-counter and prescription medications with you so you can share it with each member of your health care team when you go to doctor visits and get prescriptions filled.
It’s really no secret that we can change the way we age by staying active mentally, spiritually and physically. Aging within these dimensions of wellness keeps us involved, alert and enjoying a productive life. Active aging can be summed up as being “engaged in life.” Active aging is really all about aging gracefully, and with a little luck, you just might find the “Fountain of Youth.”