Established over 20 years ago, Healthy Aging Month provides inspiration and practical ideas for adults to improve their physical, mental, social and financial well-being. As we age, our health becomes more important, and while genetics play a role in achieving that goal, lifestyle matters most.
Blue Zones and Healthy Aging
There are five regions (Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda, Nicoya, and Ikaria) around the globe where people seem to have uncovered the fountain of youth. These five places are home to individuals who have consistently lived over 100 years old. Scientists were able to identify the lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity in these “Blue Zones.” They are known as the Power 9.
- Move naturally. The world’s longest-lived people do not spend hours at the gym, taxing their bodies with extreme weights. Instead, they move naturally throughout the day by walking to the store, gardening, and doing housework.
- Purpose. Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy.
- Downshift. Stress affects everyone and can have a negative impact on daily life. The world’s longest-lived people have a routine that sheds that stress. Take a moment every day to relax and remind yourself that you can get through it.
- 80% Rule. Hara hachi bu, the Okinawan 2500-year old Confucian mantra, reminds people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.
- Plant slant.Beans and lentils are the cornerstones of most centenarian diets. CardioMender, MD incorporates beans in all of our weight loss plans, and lentils are incorporated in our Maintenance program. Meat is eaten on average only 5 times per month and serving sizes are roughly the size of a deck of cards. CardioMender, MD also offers vegetarian and plant-based weight loss and maintenance plans.
- Wine at 5. People in all Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly. They enjoy 1 to 2 glasses per day with friends and/or with food. Our Maintenance program allows a glass or two of wine coupled with a balanced diet.
- Belong. Research shows that attending faith-based services 4 times per month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
- Loved ones first. Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first by keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby and investing time with children and their life partner.
- Right tribe. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors.
We encourage you to act how you feel instead of acting your age! While blue zones look a lot different than the average Western city, you can still take charge of your well-being by embracing these tips:
The word exercise can strike fear in some, and with good reason. If you haven’t had a consistent exercise routine in a few years, it can be difficult to get started, but it’s not impossible. Increasing your activity level is a great place to start when focusing on healthy aging. This can be as simple as walking fifteen to thirty minutes, three to four times a week. For those who are more active, try joining a club where you can use exercise equipment or taking up a low-impact sport.
Maintain a healthy diet
Following a nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellness. Eating well can help prevent many health problems as you age, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The human body needs a variety of nutrients to function at its best, including low glycemic carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Every meal, try to consume a combination of:
- Vegetables, such as dark leafy greens.
- Fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries and apples.
- Protein, such as fish, lean meat, poultry or eggs.
Try nutritional supplements this Healthy Aging Month as an additional way to help with various aspects of aging when unable to get adequate nutrients on a typical Western diet. CardioMender, MD recommends a good multivitamin with minerals in addition to an Omega-3 supplement daily.
It is often believed that cognition, memory and overall brain health inevitably declines with age. However, research does not support these claims. Interventions may actually slow some of the changes that do occur. Mindfulness activities, such as meditation and deep breathing, can be used to promote a healthier brain. The benefits of mindfulness include:
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Better managed stress and conflict
- Improved quality of life
- Improved cognition and memory
- Improved motivation
The importance of socialization never wears off, and it is particularly relevant for seniors. Socializing can provide several benefits to your physical and mental health. Maintaining strong relationships can help you age well and create a sense of belonging and connection. A few ways you can get social is by:
- Staying connected on social media
- Joining a club
- Participating in game nights, movie nights and meals with neighbors
Celebrating Healthy Aging Month is the perfect time to focus on aging well. Whatever you do and regardless of where you begin, any steps you take towards living a healthier lifestyle can make a huge difference.