As the year comes to a close, it is a great time to reflect on our health and well-being. Aging is a natural process that we all go through, and it’s important to make conscious efforts to promote healthy aging because while most of us like the idea of having more time to do the things we love and want to do, we also want to feel good while we do that.
While there is no magic pill or secret spell, we can look to the Blue Zones of the world—areas where a higher than usual percentage of the population lives over 100 years—for health tips.
1. Stay Active and Exercise Regularly
Physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age. You may have been active in sports, going to the gym, attending dance classes, or other such thing when you were younger, but many of us drop these activities when we get older. Sometimes that’s because we’re too busy. Sometimes it’s because of pain, fatigue, or other health condition. However, that’s when exercise becomes even more essential. Staying active is not just about getting our bodies looking fit. It also helps to strengthen bones, improve cardiovascular health, help prevent falls and injuries, maintain balanced hormone levels, improve digestion, and boost mental well-being.
Those in Blue Zones tend to have regular activities that cause them to move naturally. In other words, they don’t necessarily go to the gym, but they do house and yard work without mechanical or chemical conveniences. I’m not suggesting you start churning your own butter, but maybe you can take the stairs instead of the elevator or pull weeds by hand instead of using weed-killer sprays.
2. Follow a Balanced and Nutritious Diet
It’s no surprise and you’ve heard it time and time again: a well-balanced diet is crucial for healthy aging. I’ll keep it straight forward here as another reminder because it’s easy to let these simple things slide. Unless you’re following a restrictive diet, you’ll generally want to include a variety of clean, whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit your consumption of sugary and processed foods. And stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
The diets in each of the Blue Zones are different but share similar aspects such as focusing on what’s locally, seasonally available, and eating whole, fresh foods that are mostly plant based. They tend to eat legumes, nuts, and seeds, having meat only on occasion, and including seafood. Another aspect of their longevity is not overeating. Instead, there’s an idea of stopping eating when you’re no longer hungry, not when you’re full.
3. Prioritize Good Sleep Habits
Quality sleep is essential for our overall health. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establishing a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at consistent times may help this, as can creating a soothing sleep environment, limiting screen time before bed, and avoiding caffeine and meals close to bedtime.
Your sleep time is when your body is doing much of its repair and restore work, so if you have sleep issues, speak to someone who can help you get the rest you need.
4. Socialize and Stay Mentally Active
Engaging in social activities and maintaining a strong support network can have a significant impact on healthy aging. Spend time with loved ones, join clubs or community groups, or consider volunteering. Additionally, challenge your brain by pursuing activities that stimulate mental agility, such as reading, puzzles, learning new skills, or playing board games.
A sense of belonging showed up as a key element for Blue Zone centenarians. Faith-based communities came up for a large number of these individuals, as did staying connected and close to family. Social circles were also key, and Okinawans create “moais” which are groups of five friends who commit to support each other for life. These are the people they can depend upon and who can depend upon them.
5. Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress can take a toll on our health and well-being. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation or deep breathing exercises), engaging in hobbies, spending time in nature, or seeking support from mental health professionals or support groups.
Blue Zones aren’t immune to stress. Residents in those areas also have ways to manage their stress, including taking time to remember ancestors, taking a nap, praying, and connecting with friends.
6. Have a Purpose
Why do you get up in the morning? What drives you to move forward? What do you look forward to doing? How are you participating in life around you? This is your “ikigai” (Japanese), “plan de vida” (Spanish), and “raison d’être” (French), and having this gives you up to an extra seven years of life expectancy.
This isn’t just your job title, though your work may be part of your purpose. For example, I’m doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, but my purpose and drive are to be of service and to help people learn about how they can better their health. I could still have this purpose even when (if) I retire eventually.
7. Stay Mindful of Medication and Health Check-ups
Regularly review your medications with your healthcare provider to ensure they are necessary and don’t interact with each other. Address health issues when they first arise to detect and prevent potential health concerns before they become serious.
If you have access to regular check-ups, screenings, and health assessments, even when you’re not feeling bad, do them. This includes seeing natural healthcare professionals, getting dental care, and getting screenings like eye exams, Pap tests, checking for breast lumps, and prostate checks.
8. Practice Good Skin Care
In addition to affecting how old you appear to be, taking care of your skin is essential for healthy aging. Protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding excessive exposure to UV rays. Keep your skin moisturized and maintain a skincare routine that suits your skin type.
9. Add Reishi Mushrooms to your Diet
When it comes to promoting healthy aging, incorporating reishi mushrooms into your routine can be a valuable addition. These miracle mushrooms have been shown to have various health benefits that can support healthy aging. They contain bioactive compounds, such as triterpenoids and polysaccharides, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulating properties. These compounds may help protect against age-related diseases, boost the immune system, calm the nervous system, and promote overall well-being.
10. Stay Positive and Embrace Aging
Finally, maintaining a positive outlook on aging is essential. Embrace the wisdom and experience that come with growing older. Develop a positive mindset and focus on the aspects of life that bring you joy and fulfillment. Surround yourself with supportive and positive people who uplift and inspire you.
By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can ensure that you age gracefully while prioritizing your health and well-being. Embrace this transition into a new year and focus on living your best and healthiest life possible!