20 Habits Proven to Slow Down Aging
Just because you're getting older doesn't mean you have to look or feel it.
Though inevitable, the aging process is hardly pleasant. Between the aching joints, sagging skin, and constantly forgetting where your keys are, there's a reason why people dread getting older so much. However, just because you are older doesn't mean that you have to look or feel it. By practicing these habits that slow down aging, you can keep your mind sharp, your joints limber, and your skin sag-free well into your 60s, 70s, and beyond. So read on to learn how to age in reverse!
Nip your anxiety in the bud before it ages you from the inside out. As Stephen C. Schimpff, MD, MACP, former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center and author of Longevity Decoded: The 7 Keys to Healthy Aging, notes, one of the "most important approaches" to slowing down the aging process is "managing chronic stress."
Joining a book club once your kids fly the coop or having a weekly wine night with friends could help you slow down the aging process. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' National Institute on Aging (NIH), increased social wellbeing is associated with lower levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory factor associated with age-related disorders like Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
If you stay optimistic and maintain a positive attitude, your body will follow suit. As Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center, explains, "what happens in the brain influences the rest of your body." He notes that "positive thoughts and emotions help to boost your immune system and lower your blood pressure." And they also "help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes."
Taking vitamin D supplements
It would do you and your body some good to invest in some vitamin D supplements. Kouri notes that nearly half of the population has a vitamin D deficiency—and this is especially a problem for those who want to fight the aging process, seeing as it can lead to common complications in the older community such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, breast cancer, and hypertension.
Sleeping well and sleeping enough are two of the most important habits when it comes to slowing down aging. As Verna R. Porter, MD, a neurologist and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Program at Providence Saint John's Health Center in California, notes, people who don't sleep well have "higher levels of beta-amyloid depositions," a protein that "interferes with brain function."
One 2018 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America specifically found that, after just a single night of losing sleep, subjects saw a 5 percent increase in beta-amyloid in the brain.
Go ahead and use your lunch break to take a 20-minute power nap. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School found that people who took at least three midday naps a week reduced their risk of coronary mortality by 37 percent. Seeing as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., it would do you good to take a nap around noon every day.
"Education at any age may protect against cognitive decline," says Porter. "Study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, learn to paint or sew, or read the newspaper or a good book. Consider taking a class or volunteering to keep your brain fit while staying socially engaged."
Wearing sunscreen on the daily
Don't leave the house before slathering yourself in sunscreen. Not only does this substance prevent skin cancer, but one 2016 study published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery found that 100 percent of people who put on sunscreen every day for one year saw improvement in their skin clarity and texture. Additionally, the majority of study subjects also saw a reduction in their skin pigmentation and a reversal in sun-related skin damage.
It's never too late to run your first marathon! On the contrary, it's actually better for your body to run a race in your later years. One 2018 study published in the European Heart Journal compared the effects of endurance training, high-intensity interval training, and resistance training on the aging process of human cells and found that endurance training was most effective at slowing—and even reversing—the cellular aging process.
Trying different workout classes
Bert Mandelbaum, MD, a sports medicine specialist and co-chair of medical affairs at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, says to "opt for alternation and variation" when it comes to working out. "Cycling, swimming, hiking, and weight-lifting are great options," he says. Not only does trying new workouts make you more motivated to hit the gym, but Mandelbaum also notes that different exercises target different parts of the body.
Another option? Recruit a few friends and try a fun new yoga class! Not only is this a great form of exercise that will keep you slim, but Dr. Jennifer Greer of Greer Plastic Surgery notes that the practice "has been shown to lengthen telomeres." Our telomeres tend to shorten as we age, so any habit that can lengthen your telomeres is one that is "keeping you younger on a genetic level."
Cooking meals at home
Though it's more convenient to call your favorite Chinese food place and order some takeout, you'll benefit in the long run from cooking something at home instead. One 2012 study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that, over a 10-year period, cooking at home at least five times per week was associated with a 41 percent increased chance of survival.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
The older you get, the more important your fruit and veggie intake becomes. "They contain antioxidants which neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidation from prematurely aging us," says Anthony Youn, M.D., a health and wellness expert and author of Playing God: The Evolution of a Modern Surgeon. "The antioxidants are the actual pigments, so the greater the variety of colors you eat, the better."
Consider trying out intermittent fasting—not just to lose a few pounds, but also to slow down the aging process happening inside your body. According to Youn, this method of eating "is a relatively easy way to promote autophagy, or the self-cleaning process of the cells. This results in younger skin and a younger body all around."
Consuming water throughout the day
The NIH notes that "water helps you digest your food, absorb nutrients from food, and then get rid of the unused waste." H2O helps your body stay young both on the inside and out, so make sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate all throughout the day.
Sipping on apple juice
When you get tired of drinking water all the time, feel free to sip on a cup of apple juice instead. One 2010 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias found that over the course of one month, subjects who drank just two 4-ounce cups of this fruit juice per day saw a 27 percent improvement in dementia-related behavioral and psychotic symptoms. The study authors note that this sweet drink results in "reduction of central nervous system oxidative damage, suppression of Alzheimer's disease hallmarks, improved cognitive performance, and organized synaptic signaling."
Drinking alcohol only in moderation
It's perfectly fine to have a drink every now and then—but if and when you do go out for a cocktail, make sure to cap it at just one or two drinks. One 2019 study published in the journal JAMA found that individuals 60 and older who didn't smoke, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy diet, drank in moderation, and stayed mentally stimulated had a 60 percent reduced risk of dementia compared to those who did either one or none of these things.
Getting your hormone levels checked regularly
"Working with your physician to test your levels of hormones such as testosterone, thyroid, estrogen, and progesterone could go a long way in fighting aging from the inside out," says Dr. Shawn Vedarmani, MD, a board-certified physician in San Diego. He notes that decreased hormone production—something that happens to most of us naturally as we age—can "accelerate many of the problems people associate with aging, such as lost strength, weight gain, and low energy."
Brushing your teeth
Even when you're exhausted, make sure you take a quick trip to the sink to brush your teeth before hitting the hay. Not only will this ensure that your pearly whites stay pristine, but one 2019 study published in the journal Science Advances also found that the bacteria that causes gingivitis can potentially migrate from your mouth to your brain, causing degeneration and making you more susceptible to Alzheimer's.
Getting your hearing checked regularly
The older you get, the more important it becomes to visit the ear, nose, and throat doctor. Not only will this ensure that you get hearing aids if and when you need them, but it might also protect you against age-related issues like cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, says Leslie P. Soiles, Au.D., chief audiologist for the Campaign for Better Hearing.
"Many people may not know that some of the most serious conditions tied to aging, like decreased balance and dementia, can be connected to hearing loss," says Soiles. "People 60 and over should get in the habit of scheduling yearly hearing assessments at hearing health centers like HearingLife to evaluate their hearing and to get ahead of the serious conditions tied to it." And for more health concerns you should talk to a professional about, here are 50 Questions You Should Always Ask Your Doctor After 50.
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