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Healthy Living

Top 10 Tips to Aging Gracefully

Everyone gets older, but not everyone looks at aging in the same way. Some people even struggle to embrace what is a natural and beautiful part of life. To help ensure that your older years are fruitful, healthy, and joyful, consider these ten ways to age gracefully and strong. They may even improve your outlook on life.

1. Get moving

Exercise is a vital part of living well, and it can do so much for your mental and emotional health, too. Experts recommend getting an average of 150 minutes of movement per week, but how you accomplish this goal depends on your personal preferences and your physical condition.

If you can still run marathons, don’t give up doing them if your doctor approves it. However, even simpler workouts like walks or water aerobics count for burning calories, increasing strength, and improving flexibility and balance.

2. Watch what you eat

You may have some good eating habits established, and for this, you should congratulate yourself! If you struggle to make healthy food choices, it’s never too late to make improvements to your diet. Your physician can tell you if you're a candidate for a low-salt or low-fat diet specific to your health profile. No matter your unique challenges, the following foods are a smart step to getting the most out of every bite:

Fresh fruits, colorful fibrous vegetables, and leafy greens; canned or frozen options are also suitable

Whole-grain and fortified bread and cereal products, rice, and whole-wheat pasta

Lean meats, fish, and poultry with skin and fat removed

Healthy cooking oils and fats, such as avocado oil and olive oil

Small portions of nuts, such as almonds or walnuts

Low-fat yogurts, cheeses, and fortified milk (for those without lactose issues)

What about alcohol? It's up to you and your physician whether it's a good fit for your meal plan. If you choose to imbibe, limit it to one drink per day for women and two for men. That's the recommended amount for decreasing heart disease risk.

Also, consider avoiding sugary snacks, chips, and sodas (as well as anything highly processed) in favor of those whole, natural foods listed above.

3. Stop smoking

Not only have cigarettes and pipe tobacco gone out of style over the years, but they are also costly for your wallet and your physical health. If you've wondered if it's too late to make a difference, the answer is always "no." Quitting now is better than never, and it can help you age better with a lower risk for more serious diseases.

Chewing tobacco products are also on the list of habits you should try to kick. Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for cessation products like nicotine lozenges and patches. Some are covered by Medicare and other insurance plans.

4. Don’t forget dental care

Dental health isn't included as part of most traditional medical insurance plans, so it's common for people to neglect this aspect of health. Unfortunately, decaying teeth and gums may be linked to more serious health issues, such as heart disease and stroke. Consider how your daily oral care routine, along with regular visits with your dentist or dental hygienist, can assist you in aging gracefully.

Some Medicare Advantage plans, like KelseyCare Advantage, include financial support for preventative and basic restorative services. If you’ve neglected your mouth for some time, it’s worth looking into. You should also remember to brush twice daily and floss at least once.

5. Consider your skin’s health

Can you ever be too old to think about how your skin looks? Even those who don't care so much about beauty should pay attention to their skin. It's an important part of your overall health and can become damaged or diseased like any other organ of your body.

In addition to getting regular skin checks from your physician or dermatologist, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun, wind, and dryness. Protective clothing and sunblock can help you look fantastic and protect against some types of cancer. Plus, hydrating lotions without added perfumes are often effective at reducing some signs of aging attributed to dryness and daily wear.

6. Seek better sleep

You may think you've slept enough in your lifetime. However, your sleep habits may become disrupted or irregular as you grow older, leaving you more sleep-deprived than you intend, with some unintended consequences. How much sleep is enough? It really depends on you and your habits. If you're moderately active, between seven and eight hours is a solid goal.

Still, it can be tough to doze off each night, especially if you’re not tired. To prime your body for the best rest possible, avoid electronics an hour before bed, skip the alcohol, and use your bedroom only when you want to sleep or be intimate. You can also create a better sleeping environment by using blackout curtains and a white-noise fan.

In return, you may see a lower risk of issues like heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and lack of focus.

7. Hydrate

Would you believe that water may be one of the secrets to aging gracefully? Water is essential for body function and can help reduce the urge to overeat. It’s necessary for any medications and supplements to digest and absorb, too, making pill-taking time the perfect moment to make sure you’re getting in some extra ounces.

If you find plain water boring, consider some sugar-free flavorings, such as lemon juice, cucumber, or unsweetened tea. Simply getting enough to drink each day can lead to significant improvements in how you feel, too. Check-in with your physician if you are unsure what the proper amount is for your age and lifestyle.

8. Learn new things

If you're growing bored of the day-to-day, it may be time to take a small risk with a new hobby, skill, or social activity. You don't have to get too wild and crazy to benefit, either. Simply mixing up your Thursday night supper club for a watercolor class may be enough to jump-start your intellectual life.

Older brains respond well to learning, even if it feels like it’s too late to master new skills. If you’re intimidated, try something with friends. Plus, when you learn and laugh together, it will seem less stressful.

9. Practice mind over matter

Your mental health may not be something you feel comfortable discussing with just anyone, but it’s something you should consider. If you suspect you’re feeling down more than usual, or your anxiety levels seem through the roof, you can start by talking to a friend or loved one about your concerns. It may be that you are simply going through a phase and need reassurance from those around you.

But if your mental health status seems unhealthy for too long, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible. There’s no shame in getting help at any age.

10. Visit with your physician

How long has it been since you’ve seen a doctor? If your answer is “too long,” make a note to get that taken care of. You shouldn’t be scared of what your physician will say, because they want to see you age gracefully, too. In fact, they are often up-to-speed on some of the newer ways to help you live better and can help you make decisions that are respectful of your need to live independently and according to your values. Don’t let the fear of “what if” keep you from living your best life.

What does it mean to age gracefully? Part of it depends on you, but these tips can help you get there.

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