By having lifelong healthy habits, you’ll see that age really is just a number.
Though you might think otherwise, the secret to aging gracefully is not found in a jar of anti-wrinkle cream. You may be able to delay or camouflage a wrinkle, but that doesn’t stop the aging process.
So, what’s the secret of people who manage to stay youthful as they age? Genes account for only a third of the factors related to aging. Your habits – healthy or otherwise – account for the rest. You may have a genetic advantage if your grandparents lived to be 100. But that doesn’t guarantee you will live that long. Likewise, if your parents died young, that does not necessarily mean that you are doomed. There are a lot of factors that are under your control.
Tried and true
Want to live longer and without illness? The research keeps coming back to healthy habits.
A study by the Public Library of Science found that you can add up to 14 years to your life by following all four of these recommendations:
- Not smoking. Smoking is linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and wrinkles. It’s never too late to quit. Even if you’ve been a smoker for decades, your risk for disease will drop as soon as you stop.
- Exercising regularly. Being active helps keep your mind sharp, on top of the known physical benefits. Always talk to your doctor first before you increase your activity level.
- Curbing alcohol intake. Limit alcohol to no more than one drink each day for women and two drinks per day for men.
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day. Also, make sure to get enough fiber, eat fatty fish and limit foods high in saturated and trans fats (like red meat), sodium and added sugars (often in processed foods).
Add these lifestyle tips to help you feel and look younger:
- Practice good oral health. Gum disease is not only unsightly, it also raises the risk for chronic health problems like heart disease. Brush your teeth twice each day and floss once a day. See your dentist as often as he or she suggests.
- Work with your doctor. Visit your doctor and get health screenings and vaccinations as advised. This way, medical problems can be detected before they start or at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to work. And, take all medications as prescribed.
- Be sun-savvy. The sun causes skin cancer – the most common cancer in the U.S. The sun also ups your risk for wrinkles, and can cause eye problems like macular degeneration. If possible, avoid the sun when it’s the strongest, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And, wear SPF 15 sunscreen or higher plus a hat when you’re outside.
- Strengthen family ties, friendships and spirituality. Having a strong social network can help ward off depression and dementia. People with strong bonds cope better and have less stress. Join a bridge club, volunteer for a local organization or become more active in your place of worship.
- Keep your mind sharp. One in four adults over age 65 say they have some memory loss, and that number rises to 40 percent for seniors over age 85. Doing activities that make you think can help ward off dementia. Read books, do puzzles, play games or take a class.
- Cope with stress. Studies show people who live to 100 tend to deal with stress well. Adopt strategies like deep breathing or yoga to cope with stress. If you feel depressed, seek help. People with depression are more likely to have other health conditions and disability.
- Be positive. An optimistic outlook on life can go a long way. People who view their lives positively have fewer health problems and a better quality of life.