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7 Habits to Focus on Healthy Aging

There is more of a focus on healthy aging than ever!  Life expectancy has increased, and odds are you will live past 80. 

The population living 100 and older is predicted to grow to nearly 3.7 million by 2050. This is up from just 95,000 in 1990!   

How can you improve the quality of those later years? There are many things you can do today to support healthy aging.

It’s never too late to change, and small changes can reap big benefits. 

Read on to learn more about how you can focus on healthy aging!

Group of older individuals smiling; about
Happy, Healthy Aging!

1. Healthy Eating

It’s likely no surprise that eating a healthy diet is part of healthy aging. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed promising results related to the Mediterranean Diet.

Their findings demonstrated a lowered risk of dementia with adherence to the Mediterranean Diet.

This is an exciting study! At this time the Mediterranean Diet is the most scientific, evidence-based diet for healthy aging. What’s good for the heart, also appears to be good for the brain!

Various anti-inflammatory salad ingredients
Follow a healthy diet!

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients that when eaten together may protect the brain.  It is considered an anti-inflammatory diet, meaning it is high in antioxidants like Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Decreased inflammation in the brain appears to preserve brain structure,  along with the function of nerves in the brain.

How to follow the Mediterranean Diet

A focus on healthy aging should include aspects of the Mediterranean Diet.

Changing your diet can be challenging. My best advice is to start small and build on this change.

Below are some tips to get you started:

  • Make half your plate fruits and/or vegetables
  • Aim to eat fish 2 times/week; salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel are good sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Use olive oil for cooking
  • Include healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds
  • Choose whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta.

2. Move to Focus on Healthy Aging

Sitting is the new smoking! Research has linked sitting to chronic health conditions. These include cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Exercise used to be life! Now we have to make more of an effort to move more and sit less.

Exercise Recommendations

The current recommendation for adults is to get 150 minutes of moderate activity per week; approximately 30 minutes of activity 5 days per week.  Many studies support this guideline. 

2 woman sharing a high 5 after a workout
Exercise to age better!

Types of Exercise

  1. Endurance or Aerobic – walking, running, cycling, swimming, sports, etc.
  2. Muscle Strengthening – weight or resistance training
  3. Flexibility – stretching, yoga, barre, Pilates

How does exercise support healthy aging?

Research on endurance/aerobic exercise is clear. It benefits both brain health and immune function.  The data on weight training is also quite compelling.

Muscle produces factors that communicate with the brain.  This stimulates new neuron growth and prevents neuron damage.  These play a major role in memory and learning.

Staying motivated with exercise

Consistency is key when exercising to focus on healthy aging.

Below are some tips to stay on track with activity:

  1. Find an activity you enjoy
  2. Gain support from an exercise partner or group
  3. Vary the type of exercise to keep it interesting and exciting
  4. Focus on both the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise

Do you need some inspiration? Check out our Dawn in our Defying Age Spotlight!

3. Sleep to Focus on Healthy Aging

Everything degrades as we age, including our quality of sleep.  Sleep is important in every aspect of life.

In addition, a lot of our body’s repair processes happen when we sleep.

Focus on sleep hygiene to improve the quality of your sleep.

Woman sleeping
Sleep to age well!

Sleep Hygiene Tips

  1. Go to bed and get up at a consistent time
  2. Establish a nightly sleep routine
  3. Create a healthy sleep environment
  4. Limit caffeine
  5. Exercise regularly

Tart cherry juice may improve your sleep. Check out this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post “Tart Cherry Juice vs Capsules: What’s Right for You?“.

4. Reduce Stress

Individuals who experience chronic stress age rapidly. The stress response requires the body to use all of its resources to fight a temporary threat.

When stress is ongoing the aging process is accelerated.

A body dealing with ongoing stressors is also more susceptible to illnesses associated with advanced age.

Stress Management Techniques

Below is a list of potential avenues to manage stress. It’s important to try different strategies and find something that works for you.

  1. Engage in regular exercise.
  2. Practice meditation and deep breathing exercises.
  3. Find a support system. This can include a mental health therapist or support group.
  4. Get a pet.
  5. Set boundaries and reduce stressors in your life.
Several hands holding the word "support".
Find your Tribe!

A holistic approach is essential. Check out our post on The 5 Pillars of Health to learn more.

5. Limit Alcohol

Consuming alcohol and other stimulants can age you faster. 

They have more of an impact on your physical and mental health than when you were younger.  

You dehydrate easier, your organs weaken quicker, your brain cells shrink, and you get sick more easily. 

In addition, alcohol and other stimulants make common medical conditions worse. 

These substances can also interact with medications and can increase your risk of falls.

glass of alcohol with a hand refusing it.
Limit Alcohol

Check out our previous blog post on Alcohol Alternatives: A Buzz without the Alcohol to reduce alcohol use.

6. Stay Mentally Active to Focus on Healthy Aging

Cognitive health is the ability to think, learn, and remember.

Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities may benefit the aging brain.

Learning a new skill and hobbies may also improve memory and thinking ability.

Focus on brain health; picture of a brain lit up in the skull
Brain Health

Activities that may improve brain health

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Online games
  • Play cards
  • Build a model or start a knitting project
  • Learn some new dance moves

7. Keep a Positive Mindset

As a society, we tend to have a fatalistic attitude towards aging. However, things are changing through the positive aging movement.

In a nutshell, positive aging is viewing aging as a normal, healthy part of life.

Keeping a positive mindset around aging may make it easier to do the things necessary to age well.

3 woman walking arm and arm looking happy
Think positively and celebrate life!

What can you do to foster a positive mindset?

  • Surround yourself with optimistic people.
  • Be mindful of your negativity and re-frame these thoughts.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Focus on the present
  • Accept what you cannot change and ask for help when needed.

Hungry for More?

Interested in more information on nutrition for healthy aging?

Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s Blog for more healthy aging content!

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