10 Secrets to Healthy Aging

Jacqui Coombe

Image via: UnsplashChristian Bowen for Unsplash

There’s a lot more to aging than meets the eye. It’s something every human does, but something many people know very little about.

Aging is a combination of physiological changes in the body and the environmental factors a person is exposed to. The body ages on multiple levels, including:

  • Cellular aging
  • Hormonal aging
  • Accumulative damage
  • Metabolic aging

Aging is inevitable, but there are things you can do to ensure you embark on a healthy aging journey. Understand how the body works, what happens as you age, and how you can minimise or offset the negative effects of aging. Unlocking these secrets helps you to live better for longer.

The 10 secrets to healthy aging

1. Eat well

Dietary patterns that centre on plant-based foods have a beneficial role in healthy aging. Eat widely from the five major food groups to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need, and understand how much of each group should make up your diet. Try to limit your intake of foods and drinks containing fat, added salt, and added sugar, and keep in mind that the amount you eat should depend on your age, sex, and level of physical activity.

2. Exercise

Physical activity is an important part of healthy aging, not just for keeping you mentally and physically fit as you age, but for being more independent for longer too. The principle of ‘sit less, move more should be applied across your lifespan, but as you get older, it’s important to be more intentional in your efforts. Older people should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week (such as brisk walking) as well as muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights at least two days a week. Balance training can also be beneficial.

3. Be social

Studies show that people who have strong and meaningful relationships - be it through family, friends, romantic or through efforts within their community - live longer and happier lives compared with those who are less social. Humans are hard-wired to seek out companionship and connection and having this provides a greater sense of wellbeing. Loneliness is one of the main stressors modern humans face, and loneliness has been found to increase cortisol and inflammation, both of which have negative effects on the aging process.

4. Limit unhealthy habits

To commit to healthy aging means letting go of unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, eating processed foods, and staying up late. Smoking can impact the functioning of your brain and can cause severe premature mental aging. Persistent exposure to alcohol can increase stress hormones in the body and make it harder to regulate your emotions, often making you feel older and less able.

5. Avoid excessive sun exposure

Repeated exposure to too much sun can cause damage to your skin, leading to premature skin aging. Too much-unprotected sun time can cause you to develop wrinkles, fine lines, and freckles, and these skin conditions are difficult to reverse. Time in the sun is great for acquiring important vitamin D, but you should still aim to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen, UV protective clothing, and a hat.

6. Lower your stress

Not all stress is bad, but chronic stress is associated with accelerated aging and increased insulin resistance. Stress reduces the quality of life, which is why it’s important to take an active role in mitigating stress. According to the New Zealand Seniors Retirement and Living Report, retirement can be a stressful time. You can limit your worries by securing your future living arrangements early.

7. Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration can help to slow down the process of aging but it’s important to remember that hydration requirements differ by person. Your bodily needs, your environment, your levels of exercise, your health, medication, and clothing can all impact how much water you need to be healthy. As a guide, you should be emptying your bladder 5-8 times a day and your urine should be light yellow in colour.

8. Get regular checkups

Regular health checkups can identify the early signs of health-related issues. Finding problems early means that your chances for effective treatment are increased. You can perform basic health checks from home, but it’s a good idea to visit your doctor regularly as part of your routine medical care.

9. Get optimal sleep

Sleep is a natural way of restoring your energy and it helps your body repair and function properly. Poor sleep on a regular basis exposes you to a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and depression. A good night’s sleep usually consists of three elements: falling asleep within 30 minutes, sleeping through most of the night, and feeling refreshed within one hour of waking up.

10. Use supplements

Despite making some healthy changes to accommodate the aging process, it’s not always possible to naturally produce everything you need for healthy aging. That’s where supplements come in. Choose supplement products that contain high-quality ingredients and ensure any supplements you use have undergone adequate testing. Supplements are available for bone health, prostate health, brain health, skin health, muscle support, and more.

Healthy aging by definition

As you can see from the above, the secrets of healthy aging are not really secrets at all. Instead, they are simply the art of good sense, which has been validated and supported by numerous scientific studies. There may be some debate over certain aspects of these “secrets” in terms of the details - for example, what diet is best for inflammation management or what collagen supplement is best for youthful-looking skin - but the overall principles remain the same.

Healthy aging, by definition, is the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. It’s about creating the environment and opportunities that allow you to be and do what you value, no matter where you are in your lifespan journey.

Age is just a number and practising these ten principles is a great way to enjoy every age.

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Jacqui Coombe has been a prolific reader since childhood, and now channels her love of the written word into writing content on a range of topics from business, marketing and finance to travel and lifestyle.

Santa Monica, CA

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