Aging is a natural, inevitable part of life. As we grow older, it becomes easy to look back wistfully on years past and wish we could reclaim our youth. While your 20's may be the peak of physical capability and mental clarity you will ever reach, that doesn’t mean that all the years that follow have to be a letdown. In fact, all the wisdom and knowledge that you've accumulated with your life experiences can make them better than ever!
You can still look and feel young and vibrant for years if you take care of yourself the right way. But retaining your vitality is about so much more than doing the Sunday crossword and eating your vegetables – though those can play a part. Here we’ve compiled an abundance of tips for promoting the health of your body, enhancing your mind, and feeling young at heart no matter your age.
Before we dive into all the healthy habits you should adapt, here are some things you should cut down on, eliminate completely, or keep in mind for your personal wellness and safety.
1. Avoid degenerative substances. – Regenerative substances work to rebuild your body and keep it healthy, while degenerative substances tear it down. It has been said that the top five degenerative substances are processed foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and rancid fats and oils. A study was even done that found a correlation between depression and processed foods. Thus, it is wise to only consume these things in moderation.
2. Limit your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. These generate inflammatory hormones in the body and can be found in corn, cottonseed and soybean oils, and safflower.
3. Don’t rely on supplements for the nutrients you need. Supplements have been touted as a godsend, but you shouldn’t become dependent on taking them in place of foods that naturally contain healthful nutrients. Not to mention, these megadoses of nutrients may interfere with your body’s natural defense mechanisms.
4. Cut your calorie consumption. A lower daily intake of calories can prevent the slowing of your metabolism as well as slow the aging process. To make this easier, control the portion sizes of your snacks and eat your meals off of small plates.
5. Trim your belly fat. Research has shown that an excess of fat around your torso can triple your risk of dementia later in life. While you don't have to be especially slender to be healthy, this fact is important to take into consideration.
6. Protect your skin. Not only should you take precautions to avoid skin cancer, but it’s also good to remember that healthy skin is a primary contributor to a youthful appearance. Thus, you should wear sunscreen to prevent premature aging, do not excessively tan or visit tanning beds, treat dry skin, and exfoliate often to remove dead skin cells.
7. Clean your teeth. As your dentist always reminds you, make sure to brush and floss your teeth. You can also use whiteners to keep your smile looking fresh and young.
8. Look after your heart. Your heart, right alongside your brain, is a major hub of activity in your body. Among other things, it keeps oxygen flowing through your body and manages your immune system. It is good to watch your cholesterol, monitor your blood pressure, and adopt positive habits to ensure that your heart stays healthy.
9. Quit smoking or don’t start. Smoking presents a whole host of problems that can affect both your physical appearance and your overall health. Besides giving you extra wrinkles, it also can cause lung disease, diabetes, cancer, and even damage your memory.
10. Stay away from drugs. They can significantly impair your mental clarity.
11. Take precautions. This may make you feel like a little kid again, but even doing relatively small things such as always wearing your seat belt or putting on a helmet when biking are important. You never know when one of these choices might save your life or protect your brain from harm.
12. Regulate your multitasking. While many people swear by multitasking, it actually isn’t a very efficient practice. Studies have shown that it affects how well you process and recall information. If you really want to remember what you are working on, concentrate on one thing at a time.
13. Resist mobility aids until you truly need them. Staying active is the key. Build up your strength and endurance to retain your muscle tone, rather than buying a cane or walker and relying on it to keep you moving while you allow your muscles to atrophy.
15. Learn more about your medication. Do a bit of digging into any medications you are currently taking to make sure they aren’t causing memory impairment. This may be done through checking the side effects on your own, asking questions or reading discussions in forums, or talking to your doctor. Then if it is an issue, adjust your dosage or switch medications entirely.
16. Manage any chronic conditions. Living in denial will not make your health problems magically go away. Whether it is something going like fibromyalgia or an ailment like thyroid problems, remove the things in your life that make them worse and take the steps you need to feel better.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Photo by Flickr user markshoots.
In the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz about certain powerfoods that greatly enhance your diet and increase your longevity. But what are these so-called superfoods, and what specifically do they do for your body? And are there any other generally helpful eating habits to remember?
17. Always eat breakfast! What they say about breakfast being the most important meal of the day may have a grain of truth. Among other benefits, eating a healthy breakfast can give you a more nutritionally complete diet, improved concentration and performance, and better weight control.
18. Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Of all the superfoods, those containing omega-3 fatty acids are probably the most widely acclaimed. An excellent, natural source of this fat is fresh fish. Salmon is the very best choice, but there are plenty of other fish that will do. These include:
Try to find wild fish instead of farm-raised, as those may have high levels of contaminants.
If you aren’t the biggest fan of fish, never fear. Many other foods also contain omega-3s. Walnuts, winter squash, kidney beans, pinto beans, pumpkins seeds, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and soybeans are great options.
20. Protect your brain with leafy greens. For even more rabbit food, try cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and arugula, as they have been said to maintain the health of your brain and dramatically slow the process of aging.
21. Try a bit ofCoQ10. Foods containing Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, can help treat high blood pressure, and they may even delay aging and improve skin, although no definitive research has been conducted as of yet. While CoQ10 is naturally present in a variety of foods, the highest amounts can be found in organ meats – such as heart, liver, and kidney – as well as beef, pork, peanuts, parsley, avocado, and soybean oil.
22. Improve your complexion. Clear up your skin naturally by munching on carrots, squash, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, papayas, or pineapples.
23. Reduce your depression. There are a handful of different foods that have nutrients which combat the symptoms of depression. For example, did you know that oatmeal is a source of serotonin? You could also be eating oysters and cashews for the zinc, or asparagus and avocados for the folate.
24. Season your food. Some spices may ward off Alzheimer’s, lower your blood pressure, and even protect against certain cancers. So when you prepare your next meal, considering sprinkling on some garlic, rosemary, sage, turmeric, or lemon balm.
25. The talk about tomatoes. New studies say that the red pigment in tomatoes called lypocene protects your cells from DNA damage caused by exposure to the sun. So break out the tomato paste to thicken your chili, or eat a bit of pizza or spaghetti.
26. Super fruits. You’ve probably heard all about the benefits of blueberries. These little berries are anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, and may even reduce the effects of dementia. Goji berries are another super fruit, full of vitamin C, iron, and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals. Here are even more fruits you could be snacking on for a health boost:
27. Get enough calcium. I’m sure your mom reminded you plenty of times while you were growing up to drink your milk in order to keep your bones strong. That advice didn’t strictly apply to your childhood, as this need for calcium will never go away. Not to mention, consuming dairy products can help with weight loss and prevent the onset of osteoporosis as you age.
28. Don’t forget your whole grains. Oats, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, and quinoa are all good ideas for promoting a more well-balanced diet. They contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a bit of protein.
29. Indulge in dark chocolate. For a healthy dessert or a tasty treat, try dark chocolate. It has been proven to lower your blood pressure, improve blood flow, and prevent the formation of blood clots. Just remember that chocolate is better for your health when it’s in moderation, and try to find some with 60% cocoa content or higher.
30. Snack on other specific sweets. For instance, peppermint can cause an increase in alertness and memory by acting as a stimulant, and ginger is able to ease arthritis pain.
31. Drink plenty of water. It is always important to stay hydrated. However, there are several factors which influence what proper hydration really means. These include:
Weather and climate conditions
Amount of clothing worn
Exercise intensity and duration
Level of perspiration
Type of medication(s) you are on
Existence of certain medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis)
32. Brew some coffee. Too much caffeine can be a bad thing, as you already learned, but just a cup may boost your brainpower.
33. Fix a cup of tea. Drinking tea can also have positive effects. Green tea, for example, can reduce the risk and recurrence of several kinds of cancer. Black tea, white tea, and chamomile all have their own unique benefits.
34. Have a glass of red wine. Numerous studies have been done on resveratrol, the compound found in grape juice and red wine. It is possible that drinking these things will mean experiencing fewer problems of old age, such as heart disease or cataracts. However, researchers haven’t stumbled on anything concrete yet, so you should stick with one glass a day – just enough to reap the health benefits without going overboard and inviting a different host of problems.
It’s no secret that staying fit is good for your body, but did you know that it also promotes the health of your brain? Read up on the different types and amounts of exercise and the rewards they offer, both physical and mental.
35. Don’t sit around. Some health professionals say you should not go for over an hour without getting up and moving around at least a little bit. If you have a desk job, take a short break to get a drink of water, use the restroom, step outside if the weather’s nice, or at least stretch some.
36. Do yoga. The practice of yoga comes with loads of benefits, such as better posture, greater flexibility, reduced stress, and an energy boost!
37. Take a walk. According to Gary Small, MD, the director of the UCLA Center on Aging, “Walking for just 10 minutes a day lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.” Other regular physical activities that do not require much exertion, such as biking, gardening, or yardwork, will also do the trick.
38. Lift weights. This will help you lose fat and retain your muscle tone.
39. Play a game of catch. Besides all the running involved with retrieving the ball, playing catch refines your hand-eye coordination as well as your brain’s visual and tactile responses.
40. Get your heart rate up. A little exercise never hurt anyone – in fact, it helps a great deal! It increases your blood flow and production of endorphins, prolongs your life expectancy, and lowers your risk for disease. Not only that, but research suggests more exercise means less brain shrinkage and better cognitive function over time. Make sure to achieve a balance of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises for the best results.
41. Take dance lessons. Whether it is waltzing or salsa dancing, learning how to dance is both physically and mentally stimulating.
Maintain Your Mind
Photo by Flickr user Generation Bass.
The experts all say that your brain is just like any other muscle – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. I’m not suggesting you start binge-reading classic novels – not yet, anyway. Rather, there are small changes you could make in your daily life to preserve the functionality of your brain.
42. Don’t feel bad for forgetting. Having a hard time recalling information or blanking on someone’s name is not just a problem of old age. Whether you are 16 or 60, everyone forgets things. Keep this in mind, instead of calling it a “senior moment” or falling prey to negative stereotypes, because this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you allow it.
43. It is okay to make a note of some things. You aren’t weak if you keep a schedule, write down a grocery list, or post upcoming events on an online calendar. There is nothing wrong with utilizing the address book in your phone or setting an alarm so you take your medication on time.
45. Don’t find yourself dependent on certain tools. While looking up a specific phone number in your contacts is perfectly fine, using your phone’s calculator for basic addition or subtraction is not. Do simple math in your head instead. And learn how to spell the words you use in written conversation – don’t let spell check fix them for you.
46. Repetition is the key to learning. This does not mean drilling the same piece of information into your head within a small window of time. You will achieve better retention if you spread out how often you revisit the same material over several hours or even days.
47. Switch up your routine. Sometimes our brains need to be woken up. This could mean driving a different way home than the route you normally take. Or it could be performing a task with a different hand, like stirring a pot of food, brushing your teeth, or cleaning your house.
48. Stay organized. Clearing the clutter – both tangible and intangible – will limit your distractions and help you stay focused on the task at hand.
49. Continually make improvements. In all aspects of your life, you should strive for efficiency. Learn quicker or more effective ways to complete household chores, correct your memory of words you most commonly misspell, implement more useful organizational systems, and more.
Stretch Your Smarts
You shouldn’t ever quit presenting your brain with challenges or puzzles to solve, because if you get stuck in a rut of habit and routine, that’s when it starts to stagnate. Here are our ideas for combating that.
50. Do brain exercises. This is probably the advice you’d been expecting from this article: filling out the Sudoku or completing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. However, when it comes to brain games, your options are virtually endless. Some other great ones are Mah Jong tiles, jigsaw puzzles, brainteasers, anagrams, and word puzzles. Pick the ones that sound the most appealing to you.
51. Break out the board games. We’re not talking Candy Land, either. Opt for something more like Scrabble, Boggle, or chess. Or if your close interpersonal relationships can handle it – Monopoly.
52. Play some Bingo. Or there is always Bingo. Playing a few rounds can improve your mental speed, memory, and ability to scan your surroundings for information.
53. Play video games. Not all video games are mindless and bloody. There are many out there that involve strategy, problem solving, and remembering lots of details.
54. Listen to Mozart. A recent study claims that enjoying one of Mozart’s concertos may temporarily raise your I.Q.
55. Study a new language. This stimulates the brain’s frontal lobes, which most often fade as the years drag on. Once you have a reasonable vocabulary under your belt, challenge yourself to read publications or watch television shows in the language of your choice.
56. Don’t be afraid to branch out. Read different kinds of books than you normally do, watch documentaries or thought-provoking movies, and don’t play the same video games over and over again. The mind thrives on variety.
57. Stay informed. Be aware of what’s going on in the world around you. Keep up with the news through your chosen medium, whether it’s the TV, radio, newspaper, or various online sources.
58. Surround yourself with intelligent people. They will introduce you to fresh perspectives, pursue interesting topics of discussion, and broaden your vocabulary. Don’t spend too much of your time on people who don’t have much substance.
59. Continue learning new things. School is not the only place you should be getting an education. Life is a journey of constant discovery and adventure. New insights or intriguing facts could be waiting anywhere you look; the key is not to stop seeking them out.
Remember to Breathe
Photo by Flickr user Denise Cross.
In the midst of all this talk about personal fitness and self-improvement, it may be tempting to jump right in and put too much on your plate right away. But as it is written in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time to work, and there is a time to be still.
60. Try to relax. Stress can accelerate aging, it destroys brain cells, and it damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain which deals with short-term and long-term memory and the consolidation of information.
61. Tackle any depression or anxiety. Besides the added stress they bring to your life, anxiety disorders or clinical depression increase difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things.
62. Meditate. The act of meditation – even for as little as 10 minutes a day – decreases cortisol, or what has been called the stress hormone.
64. Pamper yourself. Moisturize your skin, get your nails done, or take a nice, relaxing bubble bath. This will help you feel better about yourself and look more youthful.
65. Get enough sleep. Strive for the recommended amount of sleep each night – for adults, it is 7-9 hours – and rest whenever you feel tired. Sleep serves to improve your reaction times, memory, and I.Q., and it helps consolidate your memories more efficiently. Sleep deficit causes proteins to build up on your synapses, and chronic sleeping problems have been linked to cognitive decline in old age.
66. Slow down. Take your time when completing tasks so you do them well and don’t have to correct any mistakes you made in haste.
67. Take time to disconnect. Numerous sources have said that electronic interruptions lead to a loss of concentration as well as problem-solving skills. They may also lower your I.Q. by an average of 10 points. So feel free to turn off your phone or step away from the computer every now and then – that email, Facebook message, or text can wait.
68. Stay positive. Ultimately, you should strive for contentment in your everyday life. Don’t fixate on the regrets of your past or the enigma of the future; concentrate on the present and live fully in each moment. This can have both emotional and physical benefits, as cultivating optimism may reduce the risk of heart disease and frailty.
Your Personal Life & Passions
Photo by Flickr user 23am.com
Finally, don’t neglect your meaningful relationships or personal interests in favor of intellectual pursuits or upholding a workout schedule. Connecting with your passions and the people around you is just as valuable.
69. Stay social. Besides the happiness that naturally comes with spending time with those you love, research has found that socializing is just as much of a cognitive exercise as crossword puzzles. It utilizes the parts of your brain that are associated with planning, decision making, abstract thinking, language skills, and response control. Not to mention, it also reduces cortisol.
70. Revitalize your relationship. It has been proven that people who are happily married experience numerous health benefits. These include increased longevity, decreased likelihood of developing chronic conditions, an improved immune system and decreased frequency of illness, and better mental health. However, the inverse is also true – an unhappy marriage can have negative effects on your health. So why not carve out some quality time with your spouse, or work on resolving an issue that’s been a point of contention for too long? It could be beneficial for you both.
71. Get involved. Consider joining a club, participating in a book group, attending a class, or doing volunteer work. These combinations of social and mental activity greatly stimulate your prefrontal cortex, and they are all rewarding in their own ways.
72. Own a pet. Having a pet – a dog or a cat in particular – can greatly improve your quality of life. It lowers your blood pressure, reduces loneliness and depression, lowers cortisol and increases serotonin, and much more.
73. Take up a hobby. Do something that makes you feel energized, something unrelated to your job that is just done for your own pleasure. Hobbies are an excellent way to channel your stress into something positive, and they give you a sense of purpose.
74. Express yourself. You don’t need to be an incredibly gifted artist to display your individuality. Your personality can shine through crafting, writing, playing a musical instrument, and even cooking and the clothes you wear! Self-expression helps you better process and assimilate information and experiences.
76. Do things that make you happy. Don’t feel guilty about your leisure activities of choice; every waking second does not need to be spent doing something that could be considered productive. As Marthe Troly-Curtin put it, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
77. Have a laugh. Laughter engages numerous different regions of the brain, and figuring out the punchlines of jokes activates the parts of the brain that are vital to learning and creativity.