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September is Healthy Aging Month, so it is a good time to reflect on what you can do to age as healthily as possible. Healthy aging is not only about living as long as possible, but about living as well as possible, by aging with a healthy body and a sharp mind. Regardless of how old you are now, there are steps you can take to be in charge of your well-being to be your healthiest self as you approach or go through your golden years.

Maintain a Healthy Diet - An overall balanced diet can lower chronic disease risk, support brain health, and support a stronger body throughout the lifespan. No single superfood is essential, but some general groups to focus on include vegetables, whole grains, fish, fruit, reduced-fat dairy products, and nuts. A good rule of thumb is to look for whole, nutrient-dense, foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed.

Get Moving - Science shows that being physical activity has benefits ranging from slowing down aging-related processes at the cellular level, to preventing or managing chronic conditions. If you are not accustomed to exercise, consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine & be sure to start slowly to allow plenty of time to get used to each level of activity. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week.

Exercise your brain - If you are concerned about age-related cognitive decline and dementia, there is good news: lifestyle changes can significantly lower the risk for these and similar conditions. The same good choices that can keep you physically healthy can also help protect your brain, so that is all the more reason to stay active and eat right. In addition, anything you can do to stimulate your brain helps, whether you like books, puzzles, word games, online lectures, or trivia nights. Simple tricks, such as taking a different route to the grocery store and being sure to talk to a few people every day, can help you exercise your brain, well, mindlessly.

Get enough sleep - Getting adequate sleep can lower your risk of unhealthy weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions. It can also improve mental acuity and reduce stress. The ideal way to get enough sleep is to get a consistent amount each night which is an average of about 8 hours for most adults.

Stay Social ​-​ Don ​'​t be afraid to make new friends, and make an effort to see your old friends, too. A sedentary lifestyle devoid of interaction with friends and family lead to health issues and isolation can lead to depression. Volunteer ​-​ feeling valuable, or worthwhile, is linked to less loneliness and stronger relationships.

See a doctor - Don ​'​t neglect regular medical checkups; have an annual physical examination, and schedule the tests your doctor recommends. This would include your eye doctor and dentist as well as your physician. Many diseases can be prevented when caught early if you remain diligent about your health. Take medications and vitamins/supplements as prescribed in order to ensure you are feeling your best.

Other impactful Changes ​-​ If you smoke, stop smoking to lower heart disease risk and strengthen your immune system. Stop worrying ​-​ learn to manage your stress and let go of what you cannot change. Be happy ​-​ keep a positive attitude through life. One study among adults aged 52 to 79 found a 35% lower risk of dying over a 5-year period among participants who were happier and more content.

Remaining active and engaged is the best gift you can give yourself. Staying physically and mentally active, and nurturing social connections with friends and family, are all part of the bigger picture in helping to keep your mind and body well.

 

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