Aging Well at any Age: Our Pharmacists Weigh in
Aging isn’t something that suddenly happens to us when we reach a landmark birthday. At every moment in our lives, time is marching forward. We tend to think about growing older with dread, but given the chance to go back and relive a former decade, most of us would prefer to stay right where we are. For all it’s advantages, youth isn’t easy, and the wisdom we gain throughout our lives is hard-won.
The secret to aging well is learning to roll with changes as they come while putting strategies in place to support better health. Science is revealing new insights about longevity all the time, and we’re learning that it’s never too early—or too late—to slow the less desirable effects of time. Here are some of the most useful tips we’ve found to support healthy aging, no matter your current stage of life.
During your 20s and 30s
Right now, you might be grappling with subtle signs of aging for the very first time, or it could be the furthest thing from your mind. Nevertheless, the habits you create now can set you up for a lifetime of wellness.
Guard against harmful rays, even indoors
We know you’re probably tired of hearing it, but one of the most common regrets we hear among older adults is a lack of diligence about sunscreen. And critically, we now know that more than half of UVA rays—the main contributor to skin aging—can penetrate glass. If you sit by a window at work or spend significant time in your car, you’re exposed to these damaging rays much more than you think. Wear sunscreen every day, use at least SPF 30, and reapply often. To make it really easy on yourself, choose a moisturizer with SPF built in so you start each day with effortless protection. We promise you, your future self will thank you.
Get some sleep
Whether you’re staying out late, pulling all-nighters in grad school, or enduring round-the-clock feedings as a new parent, these decades aren’t exactly known for healthy sleep. With so much going on, it’s tempting to push back bedtime and steal a few more hours of productivity. However, those stolen hours are subject to diminishing returns and often end in complete burnout. Researchers have found that being chronically deprived of sleep can cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, impaired immune function, a decline in cognitive function, and changes in mood. And when dealing with fatigue, poor focus, and low endurance, you’re certainly not going to enjoy your next workout or outing with friends. Sleep is the best investment you can make for your health, happiness, and productivity, offering the sustained energy you need to be at your best.
Track your medical care
Life can be exciting and busy right now. You may move around, change doctors, or just generally be distracted by the experience of living. Do yourself a favor and keep a log of your doctor visits, test results, treatments, and prescriptions. Make note of the date, issues discussed, and any notable outcomes. If you’re an iOS user, Apple Health lets you store medical records, log symptoms, and track health trends over time. You can also sync up a variety of third-party apps to see all your health data in one place. Health Champion offers an alternative app with similar features—symptom tracking, electronic health records, connected data from other wellness apps, and even a health journal and timeline. If you have trouble remembering to take your medications, the Alto app can help you set up dose reminders and automatic refills. Starting these habits now will help you manage your health and notice any issues earlier, which can make a huge difference down the line.
During your 40s and 50s
After overcoming outdated notions about middle age, many find that these decades are truly the prime of their lives. While this is usually when you’ll begin to notice the physical signs of getting older, there’s plenty you can do to support healthy aging and stay on top of your game.
Resolve to stay strong
Researchers have found that after 30, we lose approximately 3-5% of our muscle mass every decade. This might not sound like a lot, but it could add up to almost a third of your total muscle mass over a lifetime. The good news is, you can improve this outcome with a consistent fitness routine. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day with strength training several times a week.
Reprioritize your social life
As we pour ourselves into developing careers and starting families, our friendships often take a back seat. But now, with the mounting responsibilities of your 30s finally leveling off, it’s important to return some of your focus to your social circle. Recent studies have revealed that loneliness can shorten life expectancy by up to 15 years—proving just as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Reframe your relationship to stress
In today’s hyper-busy world, stress is unavoidable. But it’s how we manage our stress that determines its impact on our health and well-being. Developing the skill of emotional resilience helps you roll with challenges as they arise and maintain a positive outlook. Practices that encourage introspection, present moment awareness, and relaxation will help you build resilience and become better at managing stress. Meditation often comes to mind first for good reason, but other great options are yoga, walking, or tai chi. And don’t underestimate the power of slowly savoring a cup of tea, spending time in nature, or closing your eyes and deepening your breath. What matters most is that your practice works for you.
During your 60s and beyond
Everyone ages differently, and though your previous lifestyle will play a large role, it’s never too late to make positive changes that you’ll see and feel. There’s a reason they call this phase “the golden years.”
Studies show that daily exercise is incredibly important for longevity. It can add years to our lives—no matter what age we get started. Not only will exercise increase physical strength and vitality, but it can also prevent memory loss and cognitive decline. In fact, recent research has even shown that exercise actually makes our cells biologically younger. When researchers analyzed DNA samples from highly active participants, they appeared to be years—even decades—younger than their actual age. With results like these, staying physically fit may be the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth.
We often fall into old habits later in life or subscribe to the myth that learning is for the young. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Now is the ideal time to pursue your interests, learn new skills, and mix up your routine. Not only will it help to keep your mind and memory sharp, but it will ensure you stay invigorated and inspired.
Turn cooking into an adventure
The food we eat is a means of expression and enjoyment. It also has a huge impact on our overall health. The simplest way to maintain a healthy diet is to experiment with your cooking. That way, you’ll eat a wider variety of whole foods. You might try swapping out red meat for one of the new plant-based alternatives that are barely discernible from the real thing, or adding a rotating lineup of sautéed vegetables to your favorite pasta sauce. Subscribing to a health-conscious cooking newsletter is a great way to stay inspired. Challenge yourself to try three new recipes every week. Not only will you unleash your creative side and enjoy new flavors and textures, but you’ll also ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Keep in mind that sometimes certain health conditions or medications can affect your appetite or sense of taste. Talk with your pharmacist about the potential side effects of any current or new prescriptions. Alto’s pharmacists are always standing by to answer your questions by phone or in-app secure messaging.
The bottom line
Aging is certainly not the slow decline that many of us imagine. Rather, each season of our lives brings new challenges and opportunities. Healthy aging isn’t just about staving off illness; it’s about living our lives to the fullest. If we continue to put effort into our health and well-being, we will continue to reap the rewards. Rest assured, our best days are always ahead.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.