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How to Live Longer: 9 Habits for Healthy Ageing

There is no secret to living longer but to start building healthy habits today. From better food choices to an active lifestyle, uncover 9 easy habits for healthy ageing and longevity.

by Calvyn Ee

What Influences Human Longevity?

Ageing is a normal process everyone goes through, but there are many factors that can influence how a person ages. In recent times, various studies speculate that lifestyle and environmental factors contribute to the overall health of a person; as they grow older, their genetics eventually takes a more prominent role. In some cases, elderly persons above the age of 90 seem to exhibit positive health conditions and remain independent with various activities of daily living (ADL).

Science has found that certain genes influence the maintenance and function of various parts of the body, greatly influencing a person’s longevity. Moreover, genetic studies also show that 25 per cent of the variation in human life span is in fact due to genetics. More still needs to be done to fully understand how it all comes together.

While you have no control over your genetics, you can take charge of other factors that can affect your overall health and how you age. Ageing gracefully does not need to be solely around reversing the entire ageing process, but making the most of your life and modifying your lifestyle to enjoy it to the fullest.

9 Healthy Habits for Graceful Ageing

Something as simple as changing your lifestyle habits can do wonders for improving your physical and mental well-being as you grow older.

Regular Physical Activity

A happy elderly woman cycling

Even if it is simply walking, any kind of physical activity, performed regularly, can have beneficial effects on your body over time. A study found that people who take 8,000 steps a day, in comparison to those who only take 4,000 steps daily, have a 51 per cent lower risk of death from any cause over a ten-year period. You don’t need to complete all 8,000 steps immediately, though!

The important thing is to pace yourself accordingly. If you cannot manage a half-hour walking session, consider breaking it up to smaller ten-minute segments three times in a day. It isn’t just restricted to walking or exercise, as other physical activities can help: gardening, cleaning and even taking the stairs in your office building. Over time, you can start building up the intensity of physical activities. The most obvious benefit is that, even if you recover from a temporary disability, you will be able to recover from it much faster than if you had not done any physical activity at all.

Physical activity helps to manage various risk factors, from obesity to diabetes, and even allows you control your weight beyond calorie counting. Frequent moderate to vigorous physical activity, including exercise, also helps to strengthen muscle mass at any age, ensuring that it remains strong well into your senior years. An added bonus is that physical activity also helps to boost your mood, especially in tandem with the right music playing!

Quit Smoking

A man breaking a cigarette

Stopping your smoking habits can do a lot of good, especially if you quit early. Even if you have been smoking for a long time, though, quitting now still has its benefits. In doing so, you significantly lower your risk of various chronic conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease, as well as improve various body functions. Quitting early can help to increase your lifespan by up to six – or even eight – years.

Within 24 hours of you quitting smoking, you already can reduce your risk of heart disease by a huge margin while also rejuvenating many parts of your body. You might find that you will have more energy to do things you enjoy, be out of breath less often, and even be able to smell and taste better.

Quitting can be difficult, especially with how addictive nicotine is and how withdrawal symptoms affect people differently. Be sure you or your loved one gets help with quitting if needed.

Keen to know more on the danger of smoking and how to quit? Read the article on “10 Major Dangers of Smoking & How You Can Quit” here.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Preventing an alcoholic drink

Studies have found that excessive alcohol consumption, whether it might be beer or some other alcoholic beverage, can cause signs of premature ageing in both men and women who drink. In fact, a heavy alcohol intake increases a person’s risk of liver, heart or even pancreatic disease.

While a glass of wine a day does have some health benefits, such as being rich in antioxidants, moderation is always important. Even then, drinking within recommended limits can still put you at a health risk, despite only having an average of two glasses a day (or one glass a day for women). The amount you drink matters just as much as the frequency of drinking, as two glasses a day could still mean two large glasses’ worth of alcohol.

The correlation between moderate drinking and improved health outcomes is still not ascertained by scientific evidence. As such, it would be best to significantly reduce your overall alcohol intake to below even the recommended daily intake of two glasses a day for men and one glass a day for women.

Eat Healthily

chicken, vegetables and other healthy food

Minding your diet goes just beyond counting calories or watching your weight. As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Making healthier choices with your food and drink goes a long way to helping you and your loved ones age gracefully. A useful suggestion for eating healthier would be to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Plate. This provides a measure of foods you should have on your plate: a quarter comprising of protein, a quarter of carbohydrates, and half the plate filled with vegetables and fruits. Top that all off with a sugar-free drink, or just plain water, and you’re all set.

You can always tailor your diet differently, so long as you prioritize foods that have a higher content of essential vitamins and minerals. Besides fruits and vegetables, you can also add whole grains and healthy fats (like those found in fish and olive oil) to your repertoire. You can also look up other types of diets, such as the low-salt Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet which is known to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Eating healthy also means reducing your intake of fatty foods, red meat and sugar-rich beverages. You can still indulge in these occasions but keep the amounts small and in moderation. Consider trading these unhealthy foods with healthier alternatives, like substituting junk food with lightly roasted peanuts and legumes.

Manage Stress

Meditating

Taking care of your mental health also does wonders to not only improve your mood but also in delaying the effects of ageing of your brain. Studies have found that high levels of stress and anxiety can alter the brain’s functions over time, including impairing memory and even increasing the risk of developing dementia. Further studies showed that persons who led emotionally stable lives could add up to three years to their lifespan compared to those who were constantly stressed or anxious.

Managing your stress will take some getting used to, but sometimes the simplest steps can go a long way to reducing your stress levels. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help mitigate your stress, while laughter is a great mood booster that can stave off bouts of stress. These may not necessarily be the solution you need, so if you need further help, make sure you reach out to people you can trust. Communication can make it that much easier to handle your stress.

To add to that, maintaining close relationships with friends and family also helps to improve your various bodily functions, further reducing the risk of potentially life-threatening conditions. The comfort and support you receive may also have positive effects on your lifespan, but further studies are needed to ascertain this.

Stimulate the Mind

Doing crosswords puzzle to stimulate the mind

Your brain also needs to keep active. Engaging in mind-stimulating activities can alleviate your mood and get your brain going in more ways than one. In conjunction with other healthy habits, it is entirely possible to reduce your risk of getting dementia by up to 60 per cent. If you haven’t already started this, it can take some time to get used to this addition to your schedule but as time goes by, you might find yourself looking forward to these activities.

Sleep Early

A woman sleeping soundly

Getting sufficient rest from sleep is beneficial in maintaining optimal energy levels and overall awareness. While you sleep, your body takes that time to rejuvenate itself, repairing and restoring cellular functions and more. In fact, having a regular sleeping schedule is known to have significant health benefits, from something as simple as boosting one’s mood and improving memory, to even reducing the risk and severity of falls or other accidents, as well as reducing the risk of contracting chronic conditions.

It is important to have a sufficient amount of sleep as well. Too little sleep can impair your memory, decrease your overall concentration, and even put you at risk of inflammation; too much sleep and you can potentially reduce your lifespan significantly. The recommended amount of sleep you should get is between seven to eight hours a day.

Have a routine set to help you with getting sufficient sleep: it can be as simple as going to bed earlier than usual and waking up at the same time every day (ensuring that you also get the recommended number of sleeping hours). Try to avoid taking naps later in the day, as that can keep you awake at night.

Stay Hydrated

A man drinking plain water

Do not forget to stay hydrated as often as possible. Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, and you slowly lose water over time, especially if you are busy with various activities such as work or gardening. Even losing as little as two percent of your body’s water content can have tremendous effects on your body; you might have noticed how tired or demotivated you quickly feel when you are thirsty.

It is important to stay on top of your hydration as much as you can. In doing so, you can prevent a significant drain on your physical health, maintain brain functions, and even help with managing your overall weight. Make sure you have at least eight (237ml) glasses of water a day to stay on top of your hydration.

Have Regular Checkups

A woman doing blood pressure test

Going for routine checkups, even if you are not feeling ill, can actually be helpful beyond just getting treatment. Studies have noted that regular checkups can possibly catch early warning signs for various health complications, and some people have even said that these visits do seem to help improve their quality of life, even if it might not be a significant change.

With the numerous advances in medical health over the years, it has become a lot faster to detect and then treat these early warning signs compared to, say, the nineties. Diagnostic tests are less invasive, for one, and new medical breakthroughs mean shorter hospital stays and better health outcomes for people. It is therefore important to view your trips to the doctor as a preventive measure that yields more benefits in the long term than you might think.

This also highlights why early screenings are so important, even if you do not think you are at risk of a major health condition. The sooner you can spot the signs, the sooner you can get treatment, and the sooner you can reduce the risk of such a health complication – or even prevent it altogether.

On Frailty and Ageing

Frailty signs and symptoms

Frailty is an age-related condition described as a decline in a person’s overall health and isn’t only linked to elderly persons. Frail persons are usually at significant risk of adverse health outcomes that can further cause deterioration in their current condition if not given immediate attention. It could potentially make it harder for someone to make a recovery from whatever ails them.

Frailty can include many different signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of stamina
  • Gradual loss of muscle mass
  • Weakened grip strength
  • Unexpected weight loss

Some signs can be easy to misinterpret as part of the ageing process. In reality, it is actually a concerning medical condition affecting both young and old persons. It is therefore important to ensure that persons with this frailty syndrome have ease of access to preventative measures, such as early screenings, as well as immediate health care provisions if anything were to happen.

At the moment, there is still no gold standard to confirm a diagnosis of frailty in a person. A lot of studies have helped identify its signs and symptoms, as well as possible causes, but much needs to be done to provide better care for frailty syndrome, especially when there is still stigma towards the term itself.

Greater awareness and understanding of frailty are needed, especially in the context of people who are at higher risk of becoming frail over time. Frailty is understood as a risk factor for various adverse health outcomes, but the how of resolving frailty in society still lacks a solid answer. The crucial aspect that one can consider would be to identify if a loved one might have the signs and symptoms of it.

  • Have there been any significant changes in your loved one’s routines?
  • Are there visible signs that may indicate your loved one is becoming frail?
  • Does your loved one have difficulty doing the things they enjoy?

It can be very challenging to correctly ascertain if frailty is indeed what your loved one might be going through. The least you can do is to be aware of changes, minor or major, and to do what you can to ensure they can receive medical advice or intervention as quickly as it is needed. Prevention can go a long way in ensuring that your loved ones can live a more meaningful life even in their senior years. In fact, the health tips listed in this article are a good way to keep frailty at bay for a long time.

Getting Help with Healthy Living at Home with Homage

It is important to keep your senior loved ones in check when it comes to their daily activities and lifestyle habits in order to have a good quality of life. However, we understand that not all families have the luxury of time to manage their loved ones at home.

Here at Homage, we have trained caregivers to monitor the wellbeing of your loved ones. Whether it’s encouraging them to be more active, meal preparation, or escorting them to hospital appointments, our Care Professionals are equipped to provide their elderly care services as short as 1 hour. 

Contact us now for a free consultation by filling out the form below.


References

About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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