The New Year is like an annual alarm clock. It reminds us that another year has passed and it’s time to wake up to life’s realities – among them is the fact that we’re not getting any younger! Although making New Year’s resolutions may seem outdated to some, the New Year is a good time to take stock and plan ahead for the future you want.
When it comes to aging, there actually are numerous things you can do to create a future that is healthy, secure and happy. Let this New Year be an excuse to take charge of your life and how you age.
Get off the couch
Physical activity is critical for maintaining good health and stave off the negative effects of aging. Even when started later in life, exercise can lower your risk for a host of ailments, including chronic diseases, physical disability and even memory loss. And you don’t have to become a gym rat to get positive results from exercise. A study conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia suggested that by replacing one hour of sitting each day with walking, we can reduce our chance of early death by 12 to 14 percent. Don’t have an hour to spare? Break it up into smaller increments. Three 20-minute walks work just as well as one hourlong stroll.
Learn a new skill
Challenging your mind is one of the best ways to help strengthen your brain, which may protect it against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. While any mental exercise – crossword puzzles and other “brain games” – is good for the brain, a recent study done at the University of Texas at Dallas showed that learning a new skill has the most impact on brain health – and the more challenging the new skill, the greater the result. So, enroll in a computer class, learn a new language or learn how to samba. You’ll not only be gaining valuable life experience – and hopefully enjoying the benefits of your newfound talent – you’ll be helping your brain now and in the future.
Eat more nutritiously
Nutrition also plays a critical role in how well we age. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a poor diet and physical inactivity (see above) are the leading contributors to premature death in the US. Mediterranean-style diets – which place an emphasis on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eating moderate amounts of fish while using healthy fats and oils like those found in nuts, olives and avocados – have been particularly successful in helping people age well. The Harvard Health Letter suggests following such a diet can reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death. Eating well also means avoiding foods such as trans fats, highly processed foods, and sugar, which have shown to be detrimental to good health.
Make time for friends and family
Human connection is essential for a healthy life. People who are socially active tend to be healthier in both mind and body. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who were socially active in their 50s and 60s had slower rates of memory decline compared to those who were more isolated. Another study conducted at Brigham Young University found that social isolation and loneliness are as dangerous to health as obesity. So, give your friends a call and head out to a movie or dinner. Take a morning stroll with your neighbor. If you find it hard to meet people, volunteer. You’ll not only make some great connections, you’ll find a new purpose in life, which can also enhance your well-being.
Keep a positive attitude
We can’t always control what happens in our life, but we always have control over how we react to adversity. The American Heart Association found that heart disease patients who had positive attitudes exercised more and had a 42 percent less chance of dying. By following the tips above and keeping a positive attitude about life, your life can remain vibrant, active and purposeful, even as you age.