While there is no magical potion to grant immortality, there are plenty of things you can do in your fifties and beyond to increase your chances of staying on the planet for a lot longer. Research by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research revealed that having a healthy lifestyle can add up to 11 years to your life. Even if you are a stranger to the gym or a salad bowl it’s never too late to start adopting healthy lifestyle practices.
We are now living much longer than previous generations because of advances in medicine and improvements in living and public health standards. But a healthy later life is not guaranteed. As we grow older, the likelihood of chronic diseases increases, and they can be caused or made worse by poor lifestyle choices.
So why is a healthy lifestyle important? Having a healthy lifestyle can improve your quality of life, boost your mental health, give you more energy and reduce the risk of certain diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity with its many complications.
Here are seven healthy lifestyle tips to help you feel years younger and more importantly, live longer.
Munch on the good stuff
Key to establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the over 50s is to get your diet right. One recipe to improve your well-being is to adopt a Mediterranean diet which involves a high or daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts, legumes, olives and olive oil. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of serious physical and mental health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.
Another way to get into healthy eating habits if you are over 50 is to start thinking about foods in terms of nutrient density. This is the ratio between the number of nutrients and the amount of calories present. Junk food has a low nutrient density while fruit and vegetables have a high nutrient density. Foods with a high nutrient density are usually low in calories so they can help you lose weight too!
The most important factor for an enjoyable later life is health according to a Centre for Ageing Better report of the views and experiences of people aged 50 and over. Today more than ever we can stay on top of our health with a few routine tests that take just minutes to perform. Cancer, heart disease and many other health problems are much easier to treat when they are caught in their early stages. Talk to your doctor about any risk factors you may have and make regular health checks a routine part of your medical care.
Get your body moving
There is a huge body of research that shows that physical decline in old age is often linked with a lack of physical activity. When it comes to exercise for the over 50s, experts recommend at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week. This can be any kind of exercise that makes the heart beat faster. Exercise for the over 50s can involve walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, biking and strength training. Choose activities that you will enjoy and find a way to fit them into your regular routine so you’ll be more likely to stick to them. Some people find outdoor volunteering or working with children beneficial as it gets you out of the house and moving about without feeling like exercise.
Stay mentally sharp
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Mental decline is not an inevitable part of the ageing process and leading an intellectually stimulating life can help to ward off dementia and related conditions. So, give your brain a daily workout. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Tackle a daily puzzle such as a crossword.
- Learn new things by taking up a hobby or starting an evening course.
- Read challenging books to really give your brain something to think about.
- Do mental arithmetic instead of using a calculator.
- Play games that stretch the mind such as chess, bridge and some computer games.
Be positive about ageing
Another healthy lifestyle tip is to think positively about ageing. Positive thinking has many benefits including stress reduction and improved immunity. Research has also demonstrated that it can help you to live approximately seven years longer although scientists don’t know why there is this longevity boost. If like many people, you only see ageing in a negative light then try to change your perception. It might boost your health as well as your mood.
So, what’s so great about getting older? Like a fine wine, people get better as they age. Experience and maturity result in greater insights. There’s more free time to pursue interests and numerous studies have even shown that sex gets better as we age. As the saying goes: “Growing old is great – when you consider the alternative”.
Stay socially connected
We are social creatures and being socially active improves both mood and quality of life. It can help you maintain good emotional and physical health and even help delay the onset of conditions such as dementia. Staying socially active may be more difficult to do as we reach advanced years, but nonetheless, personal connections are crucially important. They keep you engaged with the world and sharpen the mind. There are many social activities for the over 50s that you can take advantage of. They include joining a club or a class, volunteering, going back to work, starting a business, joining a gym or getting involved with community groups.
Boot out the bad stuff
Future-proof your body and give it a fighting chance at longevity by cutting out the toxins that pollute and wreak havoc. Wholesome foods benefit your health at any age, but good nutrition is especially important for the over 50s. Reducing consumption of some of the less helpful foodstuffs allows your body to focus on fighting the ageing process and can keep you energised, looking young and better able to fight diseases. Therefore try to reduce your salt intake, cut down the volume of soft drinks even diet ones, drink alcohol moderately and limit your consumption of foods high in fat and sugar.
Live longer and better
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires determination and a genuine desire to change. The key to success is simply making a few changes to your habits around nutrition and exercise and sticking to them. Building seemingly small changes into your existing routine will feel far more natural, and you will achieve far more change than you could imagine. Take advantage of the healthy living tips in this article and seize your opportunity to enjoy a fantastic later life.