It’s only natural that we want to age gracefully, with as few health problems as possible and as many happy, physically active years as we can possibly manage.
Some have more success than others and certain techniques stand up to the test of time to help us age more slowly. Given the amount of people now living into their 80s and 90s, let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to keep in your efforts to handle the aging process in the best possible way.
The lack of healthy sleep patterns is a contributing factor to poor health and shorter lifespans. Quality sleep helps fight visible signs of aging and aides your skin’s ability to recover from UV exposure.
As we age, a good night’s sleep can help prevent depression, memory problems and falls or accidents. Difficulty sleeping can be combatted by following lifestyle habits that promote sleep, according to the National Institute of Aging. They recommend that you:
- Maintain a sleep schedule
- Avoid evening naps
- Create a bedtime routine
- Avoid using devices with screens in the bedroom
- Regulate bedroom temperature
- Lower your lights in the evening
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid big meals near bedtime
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages late in the day
Few things age us quite like stress. Lengthy periods of unemployment, unhealthy relationships, traumatic events and social isolation are all examples of things that cause chronic stress, which is heavily linked to a faster aging process.
This sort of chronic stress often leads to depression due to increased levels of cortisol and irregular activity in the brain’s regulation of serotonin and dopamine. It is believed that depression actually shortens the length of DNA strands, weakening their structure and causing cells to die younger, according to a study from the University of California San Francisco.
Physiologically, older adults who exercise on a regular basis function similar to younger people. There are a number of health benefits for those who stay active, many of which are related to other longevity factors already mentioned.
The quality of food we eat is an important factor in aging. It’s an area that is being studied extensively and is a major factor in the aging populations of what researchers have come to call “blue zones” around the world. The name designates areas where high percentages of the world’s longest living people reside.
What do these communities have in common? Several things, chief among them a plant-based diet based around whole grains, nuts, veggies and beans. It’s one reason they generally live lives free of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
To learn more about the role of nutrition in the aging process, be sure to read our nutrition section!
Family and friends often play an important role in each other’s lives. Spending time with family or a group of supportive friends is important for the aging brain in particular, as those who cultivate social relationships have lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels during the day, according to a study from The Scientific World Journal.
“How we bond and stay attached to others is at the core of our resilience, self-esteem, and physical health. We build the brains of our children through our interaction with them, and we keep our own brains growing and changing throughout life by staying connected to others,” writes Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, in his book “Timeless: Nature’s Formula for Health and Longevity.”