Healthy Changes for Staying Young

Time takes its toll on a body, but you don't have to sit back and let the effects of aging take place without a fight.

"You have the power to control how much and how fast the aging process works on your body. You can even reverse some of the damage that has already been done," says Tom Monte, author of many health and wellness books.

Part of the aging process is caused by oxidation, the breakdown of cells and tissues as they mingle with oxygen.

You can fight that process by adopting healthy lifestyle habits that:

  • Help your immune system fight disease

  • Build up reserves of lean muscle mass

  • Prevent or slow degenerative changes

  • Rebuild damaged tissue and restore lost function

Quality of life

Anti-aging strategies can add to the quality of your life and health no matter how old you are, Monte says. Studies have found people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who start strength-training programs gain increased protection from injury.

Here are Monte's top 12 strategies for staying younger, longer:

  • Don't smoke. Each puff hastens the degenerative processes of aging. Plus, smoking lowers your aerobic capacity, making it harder for you to do the things you enjoy and making you feel old before your time.

  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants. Vitamins A, C, and E fight free-radical formation, the oxidation process that damages tissues. Eating 5-1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily will help you get enough of these vitamins. Among the best sources are broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, and other red, yellow, and green vegetables.

  • Eat lots of fiber. Dietary fiber found in beans, broccoli, bran, and other complex carbohydrates helps lower cholesterol, aids digestion, and defends against some kinds of cancers.

  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Keep your total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL and your percentage of protective HDL cholesterol high. Following a diet that limits your fat intake to 30 percent or less of your total calories will help. Maintaining a healthy weight also is beneficial.

  • Exercise regularly. Age robs you of aerobic capacity. Performing 30 minutes of moderate activity on a nearly daily basis can help you retain your capacity.

  • Build strength. As you age, you lose muscle mass; this decreases your strength and agility and reduces your ability to burn calories efficiently. Regular strength training can help reverse this trend.

  • Be flexible. Tight muscles limit your range of motion and increase your injury risk. A daily stretching routine that works each of your major muscle groups will help you stay supple.

  • Get enough sleep. While you rest, your body uses the nutrients you've consumed that day to repair the damage done by the day's activities. Not getting enough sleep keeps your immune system from doing its job and keeps your body in a state of disrepair.

  • Take care of your back. Keep muscles that support the spine strong and supple with cardiovascular and flexibility exercises. Use good body mechanics while lifting, standing, or sitting for long periods of time.

  • Deal with stress. Stress is linked to many diseases and degenerative conditions associated with aging. Learn to look at problems as challenges and accept situations you can't change.

  • Stay close to your friends and family. A circle of support helps you deal with problems better, feel healthier, and live longer.

  • Be nice. There's a relationship between hostility, heart disease, and other stress-related problems. Look for reasons to be pleasant and to forgive people who make you angry. You may live longer as a result, and you'll probably enjoy life more.

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