6 secrets for exceptional aging

Most of us have the wrong idea about aging. We assume that it’s natural to get weaker, develop diseases and slow down mentally as we get older.

We make jokes about senior moments, failing body parts and the other perceived foibles of getting “old.”

But this mentality is all wrong…

Normal aging does not automatically cause physical decline and disease. In fact, there really isn’t a “normal aging” at all…

Forget everything you thought you knew about aging

Since 1958, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have collected data on aging and disease through the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). BLSA is the longest study ever conducted on aging. The most striking discoveries they’ve made so far are these…

  1. Just because you’re getting older, doesn’t mean you’ll develop a disease.
  2. Everyone ages differently.

In other words, there’s no predetermined path toward old age. Some people age faster. Some people age slower. Some people develop diseases. Others stay healthy until the day they die. The factors that determine how you’ll age are mainly:

  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle
  • Whether you have a disease (this can cause you to age faster)

You should also know that there’s more difference in how people change and develop with age than how they develop as a young child. So, aging really is a unique, individual process. Just like growth and development in your younger years.

But here’s the most important takeaway from the study…

Diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and dementia may occur more often in old age. But they are not a normal part of aging. They’re part of an unnatural disease process that’s based on other factors. So, get it out of your head that you’re bound to develop these diseases with age.

What you really need for exceptional aging

Based on the results of the study, National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers have given certain people a very desirable label — exceptional agers.

These are people who make it to their 80s and beyond without ever developing a disease. So, how can you become an exceptional ager yourself?

NIH researchers are still figuring that out. But other studies on successful aging (i.e. staying happy and healthy well into old age) show that these are the best ways to set yourself on the path to exceptional aging:

  1. Staying physically active. Exercise decreases your risk of several diseases typically associated with old age like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. Make sure to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
  2. Staying mentally active. Your brain needs regular exercise just like your body. In fact, people who challenge their brains for at least six hours per week have a lower risk of dementia. You can do that through reading, writing, crosswords, puzzles or other intellectually-stimulating activities.
  3. Eating healthy. Diet makes a big difference in how you age. And one diet, in particular, has been tied to less disease as you get older — the Mediterranean diet.
  4. Staying social. Maintaining social connections with friends and family is one of the best ways for exceptional aging. In fact, the less socially engaged you are in old age, the more likely you are to have health issues.
  5. Being positive. Certain personality traits are also linked to fewer health problems with age. People who are resilient, adaptable and optimistic tend to fare better as they get older. So, if you tend to see life in a negative light, it’s time to retrain your brain for more positivity.
  6. Practicing yoga and meditation. Science shows these ancient arts can encourage exceptional aging in many ways. They decrease stress, enhance psychological well-being and improve sleep, among other benefits.

Sources:

  1. What Researchers With The World’s Longest-Running Study Of Human Aging Know For SureForbes
  2. What is Normal Aging? Lessons from the BLSANational Institute on Aging
  3. Strategies for Successful Aging: A Research UpdateCurrent Psychiatry Reports

 

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.