Aging is a fact of life. Since there’s no fountain of youth, the best approach to growing older is to accept what you can’t change and focus on the things you can.
Many people struggle with aging, but instead of looking for ways to stay young, it’s better to focus on growing older with a positive attitude and to embrace healthy habits, said Donna B. Fedus, M.A., a gerontologist. “The healthier you are, the more active you can be, which will enable you to go places, do things and engage in life,” she said.
With that in mind, here are things you can do to help be your very best self.
A good night’s sleep is essential to your health and aging well. Appearing older is one of the things that can happen when you don’t get enough sleep, which is why it’s important to get consistent shut-eye. When you do, it affects your body in positive ways, including reducing the appearance of wrinkles and dark circles.
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A part of healthy aging is continuing to grow and learn. Fedus said it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a classroom, but it can be if you’re hoping to complete a degree to advance at work or start a new career after retirement. “You can also keep learning in a book group, movie club, reading on your own, visiting a museum, traveling to learn about a place or a culture, taking a workshop,” she said.
There’s a reason doctors recommend drinking water. Your body needs it for just about every single function. Studies show that staying hydrated can benefit everything from heart disease to hypertension and that being dehydrated can play a role in the development of chronic disease. So it’s essential to watch for signs that you don’t drink enough water.
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The best desserts are often filled with sugar, which is OK if you indulge in your favorite guilty pleasure sparingly. According to an article published on the Unity Point website, sugar ages people both externally and internally, including skin. Too much sugar in your diet can lead to increased acne, the appearance of wrinkles and sagging chin and neck skin.
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Though it’s essential to stay hydrated, drinking diet soda isn’t the way to do it. There are a surprising number of health issues associated with diet soda including acne, depression and lower bone density along with increased risk of certain chronic diseases like diabetes. If you knew the facts about diet soda, you might finally stop drinking it. Instead, choose water, tea or other healthy drinks.
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Learning a new skill is good for the brain. Certain hobbies, like photography or learning to play an instrument, can potentially lead to improved cognitive functioning, which often declines as you age. Whether you’re 20 or picking up a new hobby at 40, it can help you experience different and exciting things.
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Research shows a connection between spirituality and happiness. When people are able to find purpose or meaning to life, it can help them feel more satisfied. According to Fedus, it can be found through formal religion or just by developing a spiritual practice. “Meditation, yoga, listening to music, a walk in the woods or by the ocean, gardening, painting, reading or writing poetry,” she said.
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As the largest organ of the body, your skin can reveal a lot about your health and your age. To prevent it from aging prematurely, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your face twice daily, avoiding products that burn or sting, cleansing your skin gently instead of scrubbing and applying a facial moisturizer every day.
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It’s pretty common to tie eating too much junk food to weight gain. But what might come as a surprise is that eating those foods can also have a negative impact on your mental health and are linked to the destruction of brain cells. So it’s a good idea to watch for signs that you’re eating too many carbs.
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Over time, going outside without protecting your skin can cause permanent damage like wrinkles, age spots and sagging. While there are things you can do to protect it from harsh weather and other environmental risks, your best bet for healthy, glowing skin is to cover up and apply sunscreen daily, even if it’s overcast or cold out.
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Even if you engage in healthy daily habits and never get sick, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor at least once a year. With age comes increased susceptibility to illness and disease, making regular appointments essential to your health. It also gives you a chance to talk to your doctor about health concerns or ask any questions you may have.
Your cell phone affects your health more than you might think. According to an article published on UCHealth Today, Americans check their phones around 100 to 150 times a day and each interaction releases adrenaline, which can cause stress. Other research suggests that spending too much time on your phone can lead to symptoms of anxiety. Both stress and anxiety can lead to premature aging, making it important to take a break from your screen.
People have been meditating for thousands of years due to its positive health benefits that include lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and relief from symptoms associated with a variety of chronic diseases. Shown to benefit everything from creativity to stress, meditation can help you live a more peaceful life.
Whether you plan a weekend getaway or indulge in a little alone time, setting aside time for yourself is good for you and your mental health. In fact, caring for yourself can make you happier and help you relate better to others. According to Harvard Health Publishing, evidence suggests that positive emotions can help make life longer and healthier.
There are many ways that friendships change as you get older, but the important thing is maintaining good relationships and socialization habits. The National Institute on Aging suggests that social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6, a factor that can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
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Being involved in your community or volunteering offers many positive benefits like increasing relationship skills and helping build friendships that stand the test of time. It also increases self-confidence and helps to combat depression. Better yet, studies show that people who volunteer have fewer symptoms of chronic pain and a lower mortality rate than those who don’t.
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When you’re comfortable and things are familiar, it’s easy to stick with what you know. But doing the same old, same old isn’t always good for you, especially when it comes to aging. According to an article published by the Association for Psychological Science, taking on new challenges and doing unfamiliar things provides stimulation and can lead to a healthier mind.
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There are many ways to relax, and chilling out on the couch is a common go-to for a lot of people. But too much downtime isn’t good for you, and according to research, it might contribute to premature aging. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that sedentary women are biologically eight years older than their peers who are staying active by doing things like low-impact workouts and other exercises.
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It’s pretty common to know that fruits and vegetables are good for you, especially when they’re in season. When it comes to anti-aging, they’re essential. Research suggests that they’re the most important part of a diet in helping to prevent age-related disease. Even better? Eating them promotes a longer life and can prevent the onset of cognitive problems.
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Complaining, gossiping and judging are all habits of toxic people, and spending too much time with them can bring you down. According to an article on the Mayo Clinic website, negative people can increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways. Instead, focus on cultivating relationships with important people who positively influence your life.
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Whether it's visiting a National Park or staying at one of the world’s most spectacular hotels, travel is good for you. Not only is it linked to reduced stress, but it’s also been shown to benefit aging by providing opportunities to engage, learn and interact with others — all things that can have a positive effect on your health.
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Having a good relationship with your kids, family and friends is an essential part of healthy aging. Things like career changes, illness or retirement can be challenging, so having a solid social network is key in providing support and people you can reach out to should you need assistance or help.
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A throwback to childhood, slouching is something parents scold their kids about and is still important now that you’re an adult. According to an article published on the Mayo Clinic website, proper body alignment can help prevent strain on your joints, muscles and spine. It also can boost your mood and productivity.
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With aging comes increased risk of inflammation, which is triggered by your body’s immune system in response to certain factors. Along with playing a role in things like bowel diseases and other chronic concerns, inflammation may also contribute to premature aging. Exercising has been shown to be beneficial, along with avoiding some of the most inflammatory foods you can put in your body.
There’s a reason you keep hearing about the benefits of being active; it’s one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can reduce your risk of heart disease, manage blood sugar levels, improve your mood and strengthen bones and muscles. Whether you’re doing exercises for weight loss or just for overall wellness, it’s important to get a move on.
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Most people know that processed foods aren’t good, but they may be worse than you think. An article published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests that eating processed or fast foods may be more harmful than cigarette smoking. Since many chronic diseases are lifestyle-induced, cutting out highly processed foods like unhealthy frozen dinners, snack foods and things with added preservatives can promote a healthier diet, reducing the risk of those diseases.
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As people age, things like illness, accidents and falls become more common. However, many of those things are preventable. Getting an annual flu shot, securing rugs and other hazards, checking for common home mistakes that can make you sick and getting your vision checked are all things that go a long way in helping prevent getting injured or sick.
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If you want to be good to your body, then put down the salt. A study of teenagers found that teens who took in high amounts of sodium accelerated the cellular aging process, especially if they were overweight. Cutting back on foods loaded with salt can help, along with avoiding processed foods that contain high levels of sodium.
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Wrinkles are a natural part of aging, but some are preventable. Making repetitive facial expressions, like frowning, uses muscles and over time can lead to permanent lines. To be fair, smiles can cause wrinkles too, but they’re good for you. Smiling causes your brain to release neuropeptides, which can fight stress. It also engages dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and other hormones that boost happiness.
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Taking a walk outside can change your life — literally. A study by the University of Michigan found that people who went on group nature walks had significantly less depression, less perceived stress and a better sense of well-being. Going outside also boosts vitamin D levels and concentration. Getting that fresh air can be as simple as a short walk or hiking a beginner trail in a National Park.
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Dining at one of the best restaurants or having a sweet dessert are indulgences that many people enjoy. As long as they are done in moderation, it’s OK. Drinking red wine occasionally is alright too, according to a study published in Molecules. And it might even be good for you. The research suggests that the antioxidants found in red wine can lead to living a longer and healthier life.
Diminishing muscle mass is common with age, especially for men 30 and older who can lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. That loss can contribute to any number of things including an increased risk of falls and fractures. Building muscle through lifting weights at home or working out at the gym can help, along with adding extra protein to your diet.
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Easier said than done, managing stress is important for so many reasons, including many of the scary ways stress affects your body. More than that, chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging, along with reducing the body’s immune response to the flu and inflammation.
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Pretty much everyone loves a good pizza or dinner at their favorite steakhouse, but it’s important to maintain a healthy weight, especially as you age. Metabolism slows with age and, even if you're eating the same as you always did, you need to work harder to prevent putting on extra pounds. Eating foods that are good for weight loss along with staying active and limiting calories can help.
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As your body ages, the risk of heart disease increases due to hardening of the arteries, which can lead to high blood pressure. Other changes can occur, too, like irregular heartbeat and thickening of the heart wall. The good news is that you can help prevent some of these changes by exercising, quitting smoking and adding heart-healthy foods to your diet.
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