Healthy Aging Month is celebrated every September to raise awareness about the positive aspects of aging and to encourage people to take care of their physical, mental, and emotional health. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), many factors influence healthy aging. Some of these, such as genetics, are not in our control. Others — like exercise, taking care of our brain health, and a healthy diet — are within our reach.
Physical health is an important aspect of healthy aging. Taking care of your physical health involves staying active, making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, limiting your alcohol intake, and proactively managing your health care. Exercise is a cornerstone of healthy aging. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer but also may live better — meaning they enjoy more years of life without pain or disability. A study of adults 40 and older found that taking 8,000 steps or more per day, compared to only taking 4,000 steps, was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes. You can increase the number of steps you get each day by doing activities that keep your body moving, such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Maintaining brain health is an important aspect of healthy aging, and there are things you can do to help slow any decline in memory and lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Again, exercise is key for healthy aging. Multiple research studies show that physical active people are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It is also important to get plenty of sleep. Sleep plays an important role in your brain health. Some theories state that sleep helps clear abnormal proteins in your brain and consolidates memories, which boosts your overall memory and brain health. No matter your age, continue to stay mentally active. Your brain is similar to a muscle — you need to use it or lose it. There are many things that you can do to keep your brain in shape, such as doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, reading, playing cards, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
A healthy diet is also important for healthy aging. Some foods that are proven to help aging include berries, nuts, fish, and leafy greens. A study of 182 older adults with frequent migraines found that a diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish could reduce migraine headaches. Another study that followed almost 1,000 older adults over five years found that consumption of green leafy vegetables was significantly associated with slower cognitive decline. It is often recommended to eat a Mediterranean diet. Your diet plays a large role in your brain health. Consider following a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil. It incorporates less red meat and salt than a typical American diet. Studies show people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than people who don’t follow the diet. Also remember to limit processed foods. Strive to eat a well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
If you or a loved one are interested in a cognitive evaluation or therapy services to improve memory, problem-solving, and insight as you age, please call Speech Care at Home today at (813) 344-3207 today!