Staying on top of it as we get older

Grandmother and granddaughter assembling jigsaw puzzle

It’s all well and good saying that we’d like to be all well and good, when asked the question “How are you?” but what does it take to be well and good when there are so many messages coming from so many different places especially health programs and the results of university studies, often sponsored by large corporations.

Well in this story by Jeanette Franks (6 Ways to stay healthy as you age, Yes magazine, April 16, 2019) she reports that: The general wisdom was, until recently, “If you want to live a long, healthy life, choose your grandparents wisely.”   It goes without saying that we can’t choose our grandparents, but we need to remember that, just 30 percent of physical aging is genetically predetermined – according to an eight-year study of 1,000 well-functioning seniors by John Rowe and Robert Kahn.

Franks goes on to say: And, keep in mind, genetics isn’t fate. While problems such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease do have a genetic component, lifestyle trumps genes. Physical aging is shaped by lifestyle choices in physical exercise, diet, attitude, and social support. Here are the highlights of the report.  There’s no magic, primarily common sense. For example:

1.Exercise: Brain and body are connected; what is healthy for one promotes fitness in the other.

2. Nurture friendships, not necessarily family: Evidence suggests that what enhances well-being is getting together, not the activity, the meeting up and sharing and keeping engaged with other people. 

3. Be mentally stimulated early on in life: language ability and verbal complexity predicted a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. When one researcher was asked what this meant, she replied, “Read to your children.”

People, Head crossword

4. Stay engaged for as long as possible: whether the activity is bridge or crossword puzzles, mental exercise may be a key to keeping the mind supple as physical activity is to the body’s functioning. 

Illustration by Gerard DuBois.

 

5. Eat a healthy diet: most of us know that a healthy diet means moderation in meat, sugar, and fat, and plenty of vegetables and fruit. But we might not know just how those fruits and veggies benefit the brain. And don’t forget hydration—most of us need more water than we drink. Dehydration causes cognitive malfunctions.

6. Kick nasty habits: don’t smoke. Smoking constricts blood vessels and may decrease cognitive capacity. A moderate glass or two of wine, though, may be beneficial.

 It’s a no-brainer: An engaging social environment, combined with good nutrition and daily exercise, helps keep the brain healthy. Older people who are involved with friends, physical activities, and lifelong learning profess joy at being alive. Wholehearted participation in these pursuits gives meaning to old age and helps elevate the quality of life for those years.

Read the story at the link: Ways to stay healthy

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