It’s no secret that growing older brings natural change, affecting nearly every part of your body—including your hair, skin, heart, muscles, brain, and more—but giving yourself a fighting chance at aging well may be as simple as adopting these healthy (and mostly easy) everyday habits. Here are the best ways to give your brain and body a leg up as you age.
1. Get plenty of sleep.
You probably know that you need seven to nine hours of sleep each night (and that a solid power nap can help make up for lost night of Zs). But did you know that chronically not sleeping enough is linked to a higher risk of conditions such as obesity, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, depression, and diabetes?
And it turns out that “beauty sleep” isn’t a myth. During sleep, your body releases a growth hormone that helps restore collagen and elastin, the essential building blocks of young, healthy skin, says Dr. Benabio.
Recent research has also shown a connection between insomnia and accelerated aging of the brain, Dr. Benabio points out. In other words, chronic lack of sleep adversely affects your brain structure and function and can speed up the aging process. “Too many of us treat sleep as a luxury instead of a need,” says Benabio. “If I could encourage people do make one healthy change, it would be to sleep more.”
2. Socialize and stay connected.
Belonging to a community and staying connected with people you love is a big deal. Spending time with friends and relatives isn’t just fun, it can help you live longer. Those of us with strong social ties were shown to have a 50 percent higher chance of living longer than those with poor or insufficient relationships, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Medicine.
3. Exercise regularly.
Staying active is a vital part of aging well. The average woman can lose 23 percent of her muscle mass between ages of 30 and 70, says exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, a faculty instructor at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You lose muscle more rapidly as you age, but exercise—resistance workouts in particular—can increase mass and strength, even well into your 90s, Comana says.
Staying fit may also reduce age-related memory loss, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Plus, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 60 to 70 percent of all dementia cases, says Comana, adding that increasing physical activity can decrease this statistic by 25 percent. That’s because exercise strengthens the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and working memory.
4. Eat until you’re satisfied—not stuffed.
Chronically overeating—eating way past feeling healthily full and satisfied—can lead to health risks, including shorter life span, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. To age well and live longer, it’s best to stick to a balanced diet and healthy eating patterns.
5. Maintain a positive outlook on aging.
You are what you think you are when it comes to aging. Seniors who think of age as a means to wisdom and overall satisfaction are more than 40 percent more likely to recover from a disability than those who see aging as synonymous with helplessness or uselessness, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. So perspective and mindset can play a huge role in how physically and emotionally resilient you can continue to be as you age.
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