Aging gracefully is a goal nearly all of us hope to achieve. Getting older is inevitable, but doing it well requires a bit of work. Undoubtedly, some unforeseen circumstances will arise that may or may not affect how successful you are at aging gracefully, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps now to try to help yourself later in life. While there may be no secret recipe that’s guaranteed to help you age well, there are a variety of things you can try to improve your overall health and quality of life that also could help you as you grow older.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says eating well is a key factor in how well you age. “Making healthy lifestyle choices, managing stress levels, getting enough sleep, regular physical activity and having a positive outlook on life all are things that can help you age gracefully,” Tillman said. “However, one of the most important things you can do to help yourself later in life is to manage your diet. This is something you can begin trying to improve at virtually any age, whether you’re in your 20s or you’re age 60 and older. In your 20s and 30s, the goal should be focused on building a strong foundation in your diet. This means lots of calcium, vitamin D, iron and folic acid. Look for foods that contain high levels of these four things, and you’ll be on your way to creating better overall eating habits,” she explained. “One of the pitfalls for many young people is alcohol. Managing alcohol intake can definitely help your body as you age,” she added.
As you age further, Tillman says exercise and disease prevention take on greater importance. “When you reach your 40s, most people really should add more physical activity to their daily lives. This would be in addition to maintaining the healthy diet you’ve been building on throughout your 20s and 30s. Strength training is important, as is building and maintaining lean body mass. One of the key barriers at this age can be sodas – diet or regular – as they actually can be detrimental to you as you get older,” Tillman explained. “When you hit your 50s, the focus should be on maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your risk for disease. Add more fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats to your diet, and avoid excess sugars,” she added.
By age 60, Tillman says the goal becomes simply doing everything possible to feel good. “At this age, you want to enjoy your life as much as you can,” she said. “Of course, this doesn’t mean you should neglect your diet and exercise plans. Remember to try to stay as active as possible in order to remain energized and healthy. Hydration also is a key element at this time in your life, so remember to drink lots of water. At this age, the biggest aging culprit is salt. As we get older, our taste buds tend to change, and many older adults first reaction is to turn to foods that are saltier. We all know too much salt is bad for us, so remember to go easy on foods that are high in sodium,” she explained.