With today’s advanced medical techniques and growing scientific knowledge, age is increasingly just a number. But even if people now live longer than at any other time in history, that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes deal with feeling our age – or feeling even older than our years.
If health problems start to creep in as we get older, that unpleasant feeling can become stronger and stronger.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to slow both the physical and mental effects of aging. Along with improving your day-to-day life, they may help you live longer. One thing in particular has proven to work: Feeling young! Cultivate those feelings of youthful vitality and you’ll experience better health.
A new study found that U.K. seniors who felt at least three years younger than their chronological age were less likely to pass away over the next eight years, compared to those who felt their age or older.
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“This relationship has been shown before, but not in such a large-scale study in which we were able to look at such a range of explanations,” study coauthor Andrew Steptoe of the epidemiology and public health department at University College London told Reuter’s Health. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at more than 6,000 adults age 52 and over.
The researchers didn’t have an explanation for why feeling younger seemed to help people live longer, but there are ways you can enjoy the same feeling, protect your health – and possibly extend your life. Feeling youthful and energetic pays off!
Take a stroll
As you age, physical fitness can mean many things – whatever fits with your health and abilities, really. If you have your doctor’s blessing, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy the same activities you always have.
If you’re starting from a place of inactivity, begin with low-impact activities. Walking is a popular one because it’s low-cost and can be done nearly anywhere. Swimming, whether laps or water aerobics, is also great because the water protects your joints.
Also, consider including weight training in your fitness schedule. Strengthening your muscles can make every other activity easier, which improves your general sense of physical and mental well-being. Strength training is important for maintaining bone density, which can decrease as we age.
Eat more fiber
Most adults don’t get enough fiber. A 2012 study found that the mean fiber intake for American adults was just 15.9 grams per day in 2008. Make sure you don’t fall into that group by hitting the recommended daily intakes: 30 grams of fiber or more for men 50 or older, and 21 grams for women of that age.
Upping your fiber consumption improves your health by helping your colon work better, possibly lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes and cancer – three common health ailments for seniors.
There are many foods to choose from: Bran, produce, beans, legumes and whole-grain breads are all good sources of fiber. These foods also provide other health benefits such as protein, vitamins and minerals.
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Keep your brain active
It’s not just physical activity that can help you feel younger and live longer. Staying mentally active and enjoying a full life can help our brains deal with the changes that come with aging.
Our brains are amazing organs. They can develop new connectors between neurons, and there is evidence we can shift roles from one part of the brain if necessary. If memory problems come up, another part of the brain can help out.
Keeping your brain active by learning a new skill or joining a class, deepening your social connections or doing a daily crossword puzzle helps to slow the deterioration that can come with aging. We can strengthen our brain and keep it young.
Age is truly but a number. If you’re looking to add some extra golden years to your life, ignore all those candles on your cake and take in how you feel. That’s what counts. Build on those feelings of youthful vitality and take steps to be proactive about your health.
Continue to enjoy all those things you love, and you can bet you’ll be enjoying them for much longer.