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Seniors who eat healthy and remain active as they age often remain independent and live a longer life. Not only do they live longer, but they also enjoy a better quality of life. While genetics may enhance longevity, what you eat and how often you exercise could also be influential. Taking care of yourself or a loved one who is aging can enhance their ability of living a long, healthy, and independent life.

Health and wellness classes available through a variety of community resources, such as senior centers, provide an opportunity for seniors to exercise their mind and body, socialize, and even make new friends. Below is just some advice for seniors on how to stay fit, eat well, and live longer.

Staying Physically Fit

A regular exercise program is essential. However to achieve optimal health and to maximize one’s efforts, it’s imperative that all components of fitness be included. These components are: cardiovascular/aerobic fitness (such as walking fast or biking), strength/endurance (such as lifting weights), flexibility, and balance/coordination.

Exercise improves muscle tone, reduces stress, and increases energy level.  Walk, stretch, or swim-find something that interests you. Also, get plenty of sleep regularly-allow your body to restore itself every night.

Develop an appropriate exercise routine that becomes a consistent habit four to six days out of the week.  Remaining active in the community and walking are also important factors, however generalized activity does not target specific muscle groups that will improve a person’s functional strength and balance.  An effective exercise routine can be done in as little as 20 minutes per day.  Individual factors will dictate what exercises are appropriate to perform.  Contact a physical therapist to establish an exercise routine that is tailored to your individual needs.

Low-impact activities like Yoga and Tai Chi are perfect for seniors and a strong body helps keep the mind healthy. Studies show that arthritis sufferers can reduce pain by keeping joints flexible. Balance activity with rest. The older person needs to have a ‘time-out’ too – it’s not only good for the body, but sleep studies show that getting the proper amount of sleep is key for a healthy brain.

Nutritional Advice

Try and understand the basics behind the Food Pyramid.  Also eating small meals every few hours that consist of foods closest to their natural state (fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains). A good balanced diet with three meals a day is advised. Diet should include five servings or more of fruit and vegetables as well as five servings of whole grains. Two servings of milk or dairy products are needed to maintain strong bones. Six to eight glasses a day of water is essential for kidney function, regulating bowel movements, and keeping the body well hydrated. Watch the amount of salt because of the effect on the heart and blood pressure, but season up your foods with Mrs. Dash and other seasonings-your taste buds don’t work as well as they used too! Make meal time fun and pleasurable even if you eat alone.  Serve your meal on your good dishes, even if it just for yourself. You deserve something special.

Living Longer

The medical community has come to realize the connection between good oral health and its impact on general health and quality of life.  Healthy gums and teeth are necessary for the proper and efficient chewing of food from which we derive our nutritional needs.  These issues are of particular concern to seniors as oral health may become more challenging with age.  Many people have lost several or all of their teeth by the time they retire which affects their ability to chew their food to maximize the nutritional value. Periodontal disease may be threatening the remaining dentition and causing infections in the gums.  As mentioned, this may have a negative impact on the heart.
Top priority here would be holistic personal wellness. This term encompasses many aspects of one’s health: body, mind, soul. By implementing a strong action plan to nurture all of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects, a person can truly live a longer, happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.

Individuals who live longer pay close attention to their body’s daily physical, emotional, and cognitive status. They’re aware of any change in this status early and react to it quickly.  They have learned to balance their life stressors and expand their energy by pacing themselves… working smart versus working hard.

Finally, keep your brain active. Explore your natural curiosity: learn a new language, take an art class or go on a trip. Challenging the mind and continued learning keeps the cobwebs at bay. Also, strengthen your bonds with family and community. As we age, we need to interact socially and emotionally with others. Get involved. Reduce stress. One of the biggest factors in aging is stress. Being involved in the community and having close friends helps to reduce stress. The old adage ‘laughter is the best medicine’ is probably one of the best ways to maintain a positive outlook and keep stress levels low.

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Read more: Eating Healthy and Staying Active Important Part of Aging in Place

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