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The Secret to Healthy Aging

November 2015

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator

Want to stay young in mind and body? Develop positive lifelong health habits. Science suggests that a few healthy habit changes can extend your life. Below are eight “secrets” for an increased likelihood of a longer life.

Don't Slow Down: Exercise and physical activity have been shown by research to provide a multitude of health benefits. Advantages of exercise include: fewer heart risks, improved sleep and memory, less depression and pain, better bone strength, and fewer falls.

Mix it Up: The kind of exercise that is most important is aerobic, which improves cardiovascular health. Activities such as walking briskly, riding a stationary bike, or taking a dance class are excellent for health. Adding strength training and flexibility training help to provide a well-rounded program.

Go Mediterranean: With its emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. It's delicious, so you will want to stick with it. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to better heart health and greater longevity.

Ban Butter: Switch to unsaturated olive oil for cooking, and use olive oil for salad dressings. Vegetable oils such as canola, peanut, and grape seed are also healthy.

Switch to Fish: Twice a week, substitute a serving of salmon, herring, or albacore tuna for red meat.

Load Up on Veggies: Leave more room on your plate for vegetables such as broccoli, kale, carrots, and tomatoes. Grill or steam them, or serve them raw, instead of frying.

Stay Connected: When family moves away and friends move on, you can lose touch and get isolated. Don't let that happen. Build a support network through your family, neighbors, doctor, educational institutions, community center, or religious organization.

No Butts: It takes an average of seven attempts to ditch the tobacco habit for good. Just because you've tried in the past doesn't mean you're incapable of quitting. It just means you're closer to the time when you will succeed. Stop smoking and you will have eliminated the deadliest habit of all.

Take small steps today to improve your health so you can enjoy your “aging” years. Later life does not have to be a period of physical decline but, rather, a time to experience good health and opportunity.