Aging gracefully is a familiar term, but what does it mean exactly?
To be sure, aging gracefully can be a left-handed compliment, as the interpretation is usually, “You still look good despite your age,” or, “You look younger than your years.” Either way, it’s focusing on your advancing age and hinting that while you’re looking good so far, infirmity is just around the corner.
But if we take away its focus on age or appearance, aging gracefully can be a positive term. For example, it can signal appreciation for the grace one tackles challenges throughout the various life stages.
To age gracefully might then mean that you have a positive attitude and embrace life to its fullest. In this article, we’ll cover some things you can do to maintain your zest for life while looking and feeling great, aka aging gracefully!
Tips for Aging Gracefully and Living Your Best Life!
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to look and feel better, especially when you’re older.
As you grow older, your calorie and nutritional needs change. For example, your metabolism gradually slows as you age, meaning that if you want to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll need to eat fewer calories while still getting a sufficient amount of nutrients. In addition, older people are at increased risk for osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that may require a higher level of some nutrients.
So, the best thing you can do for your health as you age is to primarily eat a whole-food diet that includes plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, a moderate amount of protein, and a small number of whole food fats each day. You may also eat up to 2 servings of low-sugar fruit per day, i.e., citrus, berries, cherries, and peaches. If you purchase frozen or canned fruits, please buy the sugar-free variety. (All fruit has sugar in the form of fructose, just make sure there is no added sugar included.)
You should also reduce or eliminate heavily processed foods, fast/convenience foods, and sugar from your diet.
Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is vital for health and will help you to age gracefully.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
“Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.”
And that’s not all.
Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, decrease the risk of numerous diseases, and increase your life span. That’s right. Regular exercise can help you live longer because it reduces your risk of dying early from leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers.
Again, according to the CDC, “Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.” (2)
And you don’t have to do crazy high-intensity exercise routines to reduce your risk of early death, either. Studies show that moderate-intensity works just as well as vigorous-intensity exercise for longevity.
Lower Your Stress Levels
Over the past few decades, numerous research studies show that chronic stress can depress the immune system, (3) potentially leading to a host of health conditions like cancer, respiratory illnesses, autoimmune diseases, and systemic inflammation. Research shows that chronic stress may also promote structural changes in the brain, such as atrophy of brain mass, negatively affecting cognition and memory. Chronic stress is even being recognized as a risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. (4, 5, 6, 7)
Thus, if you want to age gracefully, you may start by reducing your stress levels.
Here are a few ideas that you can start using today to reduce stress:
- Practice meditation daily
- Take strolls in nature
- Binge-watch your favorite comedy series. (Research shows that laughter decreases stress hormones.) (8)
- Practice slow, deep breathing exercises
- Listen to music
- Do yoga
- Play with your dog
- Confide in a friend
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep is also essential to your mental and physical health. There is no doubt that chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk of numerous medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also shorten your life expectancy.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Well, the first thing you’ll notice is mental and physical fatigue, meaning you’ll not only feel tired, but you’ll also probably have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly (brain fog). These symptoms become increasingly evident and bothersome after several sleepless nights and can significantly increase your risk of accidents. (9)
Here are a few ways to sleep better.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Going to bed at the same time every night and arising at the same time every morning supports a healthy sleep cycle.
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can interrupt sleep. Do not consume any caffeinated food or beverage at least four hours before bed to ensure it doesn’t mess with your sleep schedule.
- Don’t toss-and-turn. If you don’t fall asleep in 15 – 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else until you’re tired. Otherwise, you’ll associate the bed with someplace that won’t let you sleep.
- Avoid device screens before bed. The blue light emitted from your TV, smartphone, computer, and tablet screens can reduce melatonin production, keeping you from becoming sleepy. Thus, try to avoid any device screens at least one hour before bedtime.
- Count your breaths. Instead of counting sheep try counting your breaths. Simply breath slowly and deeply while silently counting each breath. It works like a charm. Try it and see!
Protect Your Heart
Cardiovascular disease, a category of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, is the number one cause of death for men and women in the U.S. (10), and age increases your risk significantly.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), those aged 65 and older are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than younger people because aging can promote changes in the heart and blood vessels that may increase this risk. (11)
In addition, postmenopausal women are at increased risk of heart disease due to their reduced estrogen levels. (Research shows that the hormone estrogen may protect the heart.) (12)
There are many ways to protect your heart, including:
- Reduce your stress levels
- Get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes a wide variety of nonstarchy vegetables, a moderate amount of high-quality protein, a small amount of healthy fats, and a small amount of low-sugar fruit while reducing your intake of sugars and heavily processed foods.
- Get regular exercise. Experts recommend getting at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. (You may also do a combination of moderate – and vigorous-intensity exercise.) (13) Examples of aerobic exercises include brisk walking, light jogging, bicycling, swimming.
Nourish Your Skin
For many people, the first and most obvious signs of aging are facial lines and wrinkles. But there are a few natural remedies for wrinkles.
- Egg Whites. Whip egg whites in a bowl and massage them into your face. Allow it to dry completely, about 15 minutes, and then wash it off with warm water. Egg whites contain vitamin E, vitamin B, and protein, naturally reducing those age lines.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil. Simply massage a few drops of this oil into your skin before bed. Wait a few minutes, and then gently wipe off with a towel. The fat-soluble molecules in olive oil, along with its antioxidants, are an excellent skin moisturizer that reduces facial wrinkles and blemishes.
- Drink Water. One of the best ways to reduce fine lines and wrinkles is to keep your skin well-hydrated. Unfortunately, it is thought that dehydration occurs in 17% to 28% of seniors in the United States. (14) It can also increase blood pressure, cause urinary and kidney problems, and even trigger seizures and death. Therefore, drink at least eight glasses of water each day for proper hydration.
If you search online, you may not find any articles that talk about the youth-promoting effects of gratitude. But those who have an attitude of appreciation swear by it.
People plagued by constant problems and stress tend to look older. That’s because chronic stress leads to high cortisol levels, which accelerates the skin’s aging process. And as previously mentioned, stress can lead to a host of health problems that can reduce your life expectancy.
One way to reduce stress is gratitude (15), which involves being thankful for everything that happens in our lives, good or bad. It is a state of acceptance, knowing that everything that happens is a transitory state.
A popular way to practice this is to keep a gratitude journal. Write down everything that happens during the day for which you feel gratitude. Try to look for the good in every seeming adverse circumstance and write that down. Then, before you go to bed that night, read your list aloud and feel the gratitude well up in your heart. When you arise the following day, review the list again and feel the gratitude.
Then turn the page to record all that you’re grateful for on this new day.
Mindfulness is an ancient practice in which you focus on the present moment without judgment. Instead, just notice what’s happening with all your senses.
You can practice mindfulness as part of regular seated meditation practice, or you can do it throughout the day. In the beginning, you’ll probably only be able to focus on the present for a minute at a time, but gradually you’ll be able to practice for a longer time.
In bringing our full attention to the task at hand, mindfulness keeps us from reacting to people and situations. Though it sounds simple, mindfulness has been shown to increase concentration, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, enhance performance, gain insight, and so much more.
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