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Healthy Aging - Living Better Longer
By 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to climb to 88.5 million—more than double the number of elderly Americans in 2010. America is aging, and aging fast. But before you start planning your 100th birthday party; be sure you make good choices now to age gracefully.
We spoke with Debbie Kylander MD, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare physician and geriatric specialist, about how the body ages and how you can stay healthy long into your golden years.
Q: What happens to the body during the aging process?
As we age, our bodies slow down. Cells don’t regenerate as quickly and you may notice gradual changes to your body. How your body ages depends largely on your family history (genetics) and lifestyle choices.
Q: How can you tell the difference between diseases and normal effects of aging?
Aging is a gradual process. If you notice a sudden change in your health, disease rather than age is the likely culprit. To make the most accurate diagnosis, especially in older patients, doctors need answers to questions about your lifestyle: Are you a smoker? Have you been exposed to carcinogens? What diseases do your parents and siblings have?
Q: How can I improve my diet and exercise regimen?
Both diet and exercise are important factors in healthy aging. Avoid processed and fast foods high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. These foods contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and strokes. Eat a low fat, high fiber diet that includes antioxidants (berries), good quality proteins (fish, chicken, turkey, lean red meat), whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat flour) and unsaturated fats (avocados, nuts, vegetable oils). Folic acid (green, leafy vegetables), omega-3 oils (salmon) and vitamin D (sunlight, orange juice, dairy) are also important.
The benefits of exercise are manifold. Exercise opens arteries, builds new muscle fibers and stretches the heart chambers. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, such as walking, swimming, or other low-impact activities. If arthritis or other physical disabilities pose challenges, try aqua therapy or light resistance training. It is never too late to start!
Q: Does mental stimulation play a role in aging?
Mental stimulation, attitude and socialization play an important role in healthy aging. Staying mentally active is an important part of feeling well. Take an interest in other people. Create new hobbies and keep old ones. Whatever it is that makes you feel like your best, healthiest self.
To learn more about aging, visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/.