In the UCSF video lecture, The Science of Healthy Aging, Dr. Ellen Hughes shared 10 recommendations for healthy aging and tips and tools within each to make them practical for us. Check these out and let me know how you are implementing these tips into your lives!
I implement many of these already, so when I was watching the video, I was very pleased for myself! Let’s go over the recommendations and the approaches to making them happen.
1. Maintain a healthy weight. We can do this by swapping out junky foods for healthier alternatives. Don’t do it all at once because that adds stress. Consult a professional when changing one’s diet and lifestyle for the better. I lost 50 pounds 7 years ago and have been living a gluten free, mostly plant based lifestyle since then.
2. Exercise daily. It doesn’t have to be an intense class of cross fit or kick boxing. It can be a short hike or race walking uphill to get the heart rate up. The effort level should be where one is able to talk but not sing. Thirty minutes a day is recommended as the minimum. I practice hot yoga for 90 minutes a day, waitress for 6 hours in the evening, and hike once a week. I also teach Pilates classes.
3. Exercise your mind. Learning new things or doing puzzles are great for engaging the mind to problem solve. I love doing research on new fitness trends and I enjoy reading and researching about the science of foods for optimal health.
4. Reduce inflammation. Inflammation can be good or bad. If our immune system is sending white blood cells to heal a cut or wound, we get inflamed, red, swollen, and the area becomes hot. That inflammation is good because it shows our immune system is working. Unhealthy systemic inflammation throughout the whole body is caused by eating a poor diet, engaging in stressful activities, or unsafe ones. Systemic inflammation can cause our pain threshold to reduce, as well as be a factor in chronic diseases. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet most of the time.
5. Get adequate sleep. Most of us thrive on 8 - 8.5 hours a night. We cannot set our internal sleep meter. We each are well rested at our own number of hours. It is individual, and can range from 4 - 11 hours. To enhance a restful sleep, keep the room dark and free of electronics. Try to sleep at the same time every night. I personally get about 9 - 10 hours a night for my optimum rest.
6. Manage stress. Practice a quiet time every day, even for a few minutes. Meditation, a walk in the woods, or sitting without doing anything will help. We can control how we respond to stress. I practice yoga daily and meditate for a few minutes afterwards. I meditate in a group once a week for an hour. The “me” time is invaluable.
7. Cultivate positive emotions. We all know what it is like to be around a “Negative Nancy.” It doesn’t feel good to be in the room with them. We are able to create joy and happiness within ourselves with practices like doing things that make us happy, using positive psychology, and being around others who seem happy all of the time. It is contagious. I write to be happy, whether a blog, short story, or even a letter. It brings me joy. I also practice positive affirmations (a tool used in positive psychology). I write three things down that I want in my life. I write the same three things every day and repeat them aloud multiple times daily. I write them as if they are already happening. They are my “I am” statements. When I actualize the goal, I change one sentence to replace the one I met. It really is satisfying to see my life shift into positivity.
8. Stay connected. Whether a romantic, familial, or platonic relationship, relationships help us to feel happier all around. Lucky for me, I have a work family, a home family, and a huge extended family. We are in constant contact with each other and we enjoy our family celebrations all over the USA.
9. Engage in meaningful activities. Giving to others, teaching the youth how to do something one is masterful at is a way to help others. Giving and volunteering is a way to make us happy as well. I regularly teach wellness workshops at libraries and senior centers. It really does fulfill me.
10. Connect to something beyond you. Whether nature endeavors or spiritual endeavors are in one’s daily practice, it is a connectedness to a greater than “me” that keeps us healthy. I am working on this recommendation to relieve the fear of aging and death, because they are inevitable.
In the video this quote was used: “Die young, as late as possible.” What this means to me is that we shouldn’t be depressed and cynical as we age. Society puts a great value on the youth and their abilities, beauty, and pop culture celebrates youth. So does consumerism. We have the opportunity to be as jolly and optimistic as we can until our last breaths. We can reduce aches and pains by utilizing the recommendations made by Dr. Ellen Hughes. In one of the other Canvas videos, Turning Back the Clock, the narrator said that the leading causes of death and disability in the USA are lifestyle and diet. 70% of our outcomes are under our own control. So we have a choice to make every moment of our lives. I choose to die young, as late as possible.