A Guide to Healthy Aging
There’s something to be said for the mentality of “age is just a number,” but it’s a fact that our minds and bodies change with time, and new health considerations arise as we grow older.
Healthy aging, which encompasses your physical, emotional, and cognitive wellness, is a journey rather than a destination. While it requires an ongoing investment in your well-being, small steps and everyday choices can make a big impact. Here’s what to prioritize.
Go to the doctor regularly
Access to primary care is a challenge in the US, and 40% of US adults report delaying or going without care due to financial barriers. Skipping a routine screening can be serious: according to the CDC, up to 40% of all fatalities linked to the five leading causes of death in the U.S. — heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries — are preventable.
Since your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and other common conditions increases as you grow older, staying on track with preventative care is a key component of healthy aging. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions or another chronic illness, attending regular doctor’s appointments is also critical to feeling your best.
Drop unhealthy habits
If you smoke, quitting is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain good health as you grow older. It’s never too late (or too early) to drop the habit: quitting smoking at any age can lower your risk for cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease.
If you’re having difficulty, don’t be discouraged. It often takes multiple attempts to stop smoking for good. Ask your doctor for resources to support your efforts.
Regular physical activity is fundamental to heart-healthy living and to healthy aging. Not only can consistent exercise increase life expectancy, it is also correlated with a better quality of life and less physical discomfort.
Health experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise and two days of muscle-strengthening activities each week. The latter is very important for older adults, as muscle mass naturally declines as you age.
Remember that some physical activity is better than none, and you can break up your weekly exercise hours into smaller chunks that feel more manageable. Find additional tips on developing a fitness routine that works for you here.
Get enough sleep
More than 1 in 3 US adults report getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. There are several ways that the process of aging can interfere with a good night’s sleep:
- Aging-related changes to your brain chemistry affect your circadian rhythms — the 24-hour cycles that control your body’s internal clock and regulate your mood, hunger, and sleep.
- Changes in hormone production, like decreased melatonin levels, can also disrupt sleep as you grow older.
- Some of the health diseases that are more common in older adults, like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, can contribute to poor sleep.
- Aging-related lifestyle changes — for example, a less structured routine in retirement — can also result in more difficulty sleeping.
Simple steps can help improve sleep health. Start with the following:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Avoid the use of electronic devices close to bedtime.
- Get plenty of natural light and stay physically active during the day, but avoid exercising close to bedtime.
- Avoid consuming food or beverages close to bedtime, particularly caffeine, alcohol, and high-sugar or high-fat foods.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet and maintain a comfortable temperature.
Seek connection and community
As you prioritize healthy aging, be sure to give your mental well-being plenty of attention. Many age-related physical changes — including the loss of vision and hearing and changes in memory and mobility — can make it challenging to maintain strong social ties. For this reason, older adults face an increased risk of isolation and loneliness.
Good mental health is important in and of itself — after all, each one of us deserves to experience fulfillment at every stage of life. But there are also physical and cognitive benefits of maintaining positive relationships as you age. Loneliness is associated with a greater risk for dementia, and strong, meaningful social connections are linked to better physical health.
To enjoy the later chapters of life — and to support your cognitive and cardiovascular health — stay connected to friends and loved ones, seek community in various forms, and look for opportunities to give back. Remember that small acts of connection go far — and that four-legged companions count too. (We’re serious — having a pet is good for those cholesterol and blood pressure numbers!)
Choose a reliable and flexible pharmacy partner
Alto Pharmacy makes it simple to live your healthiest life by providing an easier, more supportive, and more affordable prescription experience. Our pharmacists are here with information and answers, even during nights and weekends. And the Alto app gives you control and convenience in managing your medications, with auto refills, medication bundling, and custom dosing reminders.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.