Aging is inevitable, but how people age varies widely. No longer is old age assumed to be a time of inactivity and inability to enjoy life. With a few simple lifestyle choices and attitude adjustments, we can improve the odds of aging with health and vitality.
“It’s never too late to start,” emphasizes Dr. Ruth Clark, an associate professor of physical therapy and neurology at Washington University. Even people who are 65 or older can make positive changes that will improve their quality of life during their remaining years.
Clark directs patients to basic guidelines, known as ‘Life’s Simple 7,’ issued by the American Heart Association (mylifecheck.heart.org). The list includes: Get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar and stop smoking.
Knowing one’s cholesterol levels, blood pressure and fasting blood sugar are important variables to making appropriate decisions and lifestyle changes, Clark notes. “This is why it is so important to have an annual physical with your primary-care physician.”
Clark also reminds patients to inform every health professional they see of all the medications and supplements they take. “You can simply bring all your medications and supplements with you to each appointment so that your physicians know exactly what you take and don’t overlap prescriptions, or prescribe something that might interact with a drug you’re already on,” she says.
Juliana Renner, a fitness instructor at The Gatesworth, agrees that the basic advice for healthy living remains the same, regardless of age. “The old strategies are perfect,” she says. First and foremost, keep moving. “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” she notes. “Also, it’s true about ‘an apple a day,’ so eat living foods (as opposed to processed and junk foods). And remember, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ so be kind to your body now. Don’t wait for symptoms to arise, and then change your lifestyle.”
Renner also urges her clients to maintain vitality through breathing exercises, social interactions and a positive attitude. “My personal opinion is that health and vitality start in the mind with your thoughts, thinking patterns, belief systems, etc.,” she says.
Renner’s personal ‘simple seven’ include: smiling, proper hydration (plenty of water), regular exercise, positive relationships, self-acceptance, a healthy diet and awareness of any physical changes.
“Find the natural, organic joy that simmers within and allow it to simply be expressed,” Renner says. “Enjoy life so much that it becomes a pulsation that’s contagious. I could talk about food and exercises; but really, the most important thing is to slow down long enough to listen to your heart—to feel the vibration of its inner voice speaking.”