Tips for Healthy Aging
Research has identified actions and steps we can take to maintain our health and function as we age into our twilight years. Improving our diet, increasing levels of physical activity, getting health screenings, and managing risk factors for diseases can influence all our different areas of health.
While exercise is something that some people love and some people hate, regardless of how you may feel about it, exercise and physical activity are good for you. In fact, any medical professional will tell you that exercise and physical activity are one of the most crucial components of almost any healthy aging program. Science and research suggests that not only do people who engage in regular exercise live longer, they enjoy a higher quality of life over the course of that longer life. Exercise doesn’t need to be something you do only in a gym, however. Anything you do that keeps you physically active, such as gardening, walking the dog, taking the stairs, keeps your body moving and can help you continue to do the things you enjoy. Regular exercise and activity can help reduce your risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that occur with aging. It can also decrease your risk of suffering a fall, which is one of the biggest causes of preventable injuries and hospitalizations among the elderly. Exercise keeps your body limber and flexible, preserving your freedom of movement and possibly helping with certain chronic conditions like arthritis, as well as reducing blood pressure and lessening the negative effects of diabetes. Heart disease, which is the number one killer in the United States, has its risks lessened with exercise.
Weight, a very complicated issue, is of concern for healthy aging. Older people may have more health problems related to muscle to fat ratio, and location of their fat deposits, compared to the problems associated with obesity. Weight and exercise go hand in hand as well. A higher body weight is frequently linked with physical inactivity, which increases body size, creating a negative feedback loop that can reduce lifespan and the quality thereof.
Many health problems are connected to being overweight or obese. A higher risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. But frustratingly, being thinner is not always healthier for the elderly. One study had researchers finding that older adults who are underweight have a higher mortality rate compared to those of a normal weight or overweight. One possible explanation is that older adults who become thinner may be an indication of a symptom of a disease or developing frailty. Maintaining a higher BMI as we age may not necessarily be a bad thing.
The distribution of fat is of interest as well. A pear shape, with fat stored in areas such as the hips and thighs, is generally healthier than the apple shape, where fat is distributed around the stomach and waist. The measurement of hip to waist ratio is perhaps a better indicator of health as we age.